In the banner year of 2009, the Coogs scored over 400 points with a balanced offensive attack that was equally adept at running and throwing the ball. The gutting of the unit due to graduation gives a number of newcomers the chance to step in and continue to success.
Prominent among the grad losses is quarterback Matt Munoz, who ran for better than 1,000 yards and passed for over 2,000, but his understudy of a year ago is ready to see what he can do.
Senior Michael Pacheco is a burly kid who likes to tuck the ball and run. He showed flashes of passing prowess against P-SJ-A in relief of Munoz, and though he is not the passer the departed star was, he will bring toughness and leadership to the party.
“Michael has been around this program for four years now and I think he is going to do just fine for us,” said Coach Roy Garza. “We may be running the ball a little more this season, but we think Michael can make the throws when he has to. He’s just a great kid who has worked really hard to prepare for the opportunity.”
Also gone is last year’s feature back Simon Edwards, who also surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground and was especially effective down the stretch, as North made the playoffs and won a pair of games before losing to San Antonio Brandeis in the regional round.
Set to replace him is senior Roosevelt Munoz, a promising physical specimen last seen on defense in the secondary. He is strong and fast and all he has to do is learn how to find holes and accelerate. Garza likes his chances of becoming a solid runner, and notes he will receive help from speedy little Roly Borrego, a breakaway threat.
“We may be doing some option look this year because we have backs with speed and we know that Michael came put his head down and get some yards,” Garza said.
The coaches know that just about every year, the offensive line is the key to team success, and 2010 presents another challenge, as the Coogs lost four starters up front. The remaining regular is junior Rudy Trevino, who did well as a sophomore at right tackle and will switch to the all-important left side this campaign.
OL coach Damien Gonzalez says that Trevino should be one of the district’s best, as he has gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason.
“The guy performed well last season even though we just threw him in there without a lot of experience,” Gonzalez said. “He has also started to become a leader for us, he’s been calling the other guys and getting them in here to lift.”
Another lineman expected to fill a starting role is senior center Pete Longoria, who has waited his turn and now finds himself with a Friday night job. Gonzalez noted that like former All-District snapper Rene Pena, Longoria is a smart cookie who can make all the calls.
“He is a lot like Rene, our coach on the field,” said the coach. “We should be good there with Pete, he’s ranked near the top of his class academically.”
Right now, guard Nemo Corona and tackle Jon Velasquez are vying for starting nods, with a couple of sophomores, Brandon Aleman and Mike Gomez, bringing 260-pound size to the competition. Aleman’s dad was a Cougar lineman of note back in the day and the coaches say the younger version has a huge upside down the road. Junior Sergio Gracia is also in the picture here as the club seeks to retool the front line that will clear the way for Rosie Munoz and the rest.
Last year North was able to strike through the air with ease, but its five leading receivers have graduated. The bright side of that is that are several athletes who look capable of carrying on where Jordan Quiroz, Juan Ramirez and others once held sway.
Garza likes his inside receiver pair of Tevin Brown and Reyes Espino, promising speedsters with great athletic ability. Joel Cuellar, a summer 7-on-7 standout, will see the field often outside, along with Michael Hinojosa, hurdler Jake Hrabacek, and Frankie Garcia, one of the fastest kids on the roster. Look for rangy Martin Gonzalez to battle for minutes as well.
Right now, it may be hard to imagine that the offense can duplicate 2009’s high-powered showing. But the truth is, no one thought that Marco Adriana could replace rugged Oscar Hernandez as the feature back in 2008, but all the former did was rush for 1,700 yards and make the All-Valley team.
Such is the nature of the continuity between the years, and as two-a-days began last week, North was patiently plugging in replacements and getting them up to speed for the latest wars to come.