If you're at this site, you undoubtedly came here to read about the Dallas Cowboys. Clint and I appreciate the growing number of visitors we get every day, and also the folks who keep coming back, but you guys might want to skip this one. This one will probably be pretty long and it won't be about the Cowboys or the NFL or even college football. This post is dedicated to our high school football teams and the best quarterback who ever played high school football and the one I had the pleasure of catching passes from for five years: Ricky Sifuentes. I'm going to do this in more than one part because I don't have to the time to go through all five years right now.
I'm not a person that tends to get very nostalgic. Quite the opposite actually. I tend to always look ahead and forget about the past. To a fault, unfortunately. Learn from your mistakes, don't dwell on your accomplishments, and move on. It's the simple philosophy I try to live by. But writing this football blog with Clint does sometimes jar some things. We have a lot of great sports memories together, and not just from teams that we are fans of, but also from sports that we played ourselves and the people we've met. And sometimes its fun to look back. Especially when you have kids that are approaching some of the same experiences that you went through. So, anyway, this post is about Ricky. And football. And if this blog with Clint continues, I'm sure Ricky won't be the last one I write about. There are plenty of others that I'm proud to have played football with, and I have plenty of stories to write, but fittingly the first one is mostly about Ricky and the things that happened along the way during the five years he threw me the ball.
When I first moved to Nueces Canyon in 8th grade, there was a bit of a quarterback controversy on that Jr. High team. You think I'm kidding? (It is pretty funny to think about it that way.) Ricky Sifuentes had played tailback the prior two years and he was great at that position. He was the best player on the team at any position. But Ricky wanted to play quarterback in 8th grade. Darren Lloyd was the other kid that wanted to play quarterback. Actually, I don't know for sure if Darren wanted to play quarterback as much as many of his friends wanted him there. The thinking was, Ricky had the stronger arm but Darren was more accurate. And there was a lot of truth to that back then. Darren would become a very good friend of mine later that year, and remain one. I've lost contact with Darren over the years but I still consider him a great friend. But I didn't really care who played quarterback. I hadn't lived there long enough to really have an opinion. I played receiver. And I was pretty selfish. I just wanted someone that didn't mind throwing me the ball, and both of them seemed plenty capable to me in the morning games we played before school, and the ones we played at lunch. Ricky ended up playing quarterback that year, and Darren played fullback. Darren would later move to offensive tackle and defensive end in high school, and he was fantastic at both positions. He was quick and fast for a lineman, and big enough, and I have no doubt he could have played college football if that's what he wanted to do. (I'm getting to the part about Ricky...)
The first Jr. High game we played together, Ricky and I hooked up for 3 passes against the Leakey Eagles and we won the game (I forget the score, it was close). All of them went for over 40 yards, and 2 of them went for TD's. I remember on the first score, I ran all the way through the endzone, and then held the ball up and circled back around and spiked it. It was a real good spike, too. Coach Reicheneau was very unhappy about that. Something about "benching me" and "never getting on the field again". I never did that again, needless to say. The next morning at school Ricky called us "The Connection", a nickname he never forgot. There would be more of same in the handful of games we played that year. We rarely passed the ball, Ricky usually just ran it himself, but when we did he always looked my way.
Our freshman year, we had Coach Mireles (head coach) and Coach Reicheneau (assistant coach). Coach Reicheneau had been our only coach in Jr. High. We were heavy with seniors on that team, and I thought it was a great football team. I didn't play much on offense, even in practice. Our receivers were Domingo Tobar and Jesse Hidalgo, and they were both seniors, and both good. Ricky started at quarterback, which was a surprise because the starter from the previous few years, David Hernandez, returned, and he was a senior. David was moved to tight end. Actually, it was a surprise to the seniors that Ricky started, but not to me. I had a summer job and I had worked with 'Mingo Tobar and I told him Ricky was going to start, and I was going to take 'Mingo's position at receiver! Deep down, I knew I wasn't going to start as a freshman ('Mingo was good, and a senior) but I was serious about Ricky.
My role on that team was on kickoffs, and at the end of the game when we were ahead, I played some on defense. I played wedgebuster on kickoffs. What a way to break into high school football. A wedgebuster. The team started 3-0 that season, and I thought we were on our way to the playoffs for sure. We had beaten 3 bigger schools, and beaten them badly. Something happened along the way, though. The team fell apart, and finished at 6-5 and missed the playoffs. They blew a game after being ahead 27-0 against Johnson City. The failures were probably because of Coach Mireles. He was insane. Seriously, I think he was nuts.
I broke my arm after the 3rd game (luckily I didn't have to sit through the Johnson City fiasco) and ended up quitting the team. I broke my arm in school in a pickup game of touch football during P.E. class. I didn't realize it was broken for a few days. I went to school, it hurt like hell, I went to practice, it hurt like hell, then finally, I couldn't get my pads on before a practice, and coach Reicheneau saw me and sent me to the doctor. I came back to practice in a full cast. And Coach Mireles proceeded to chew me out. "Don't you know if it was a soft cast, you could have played! You're out for the season now!" So for the next couple of games I became Mireles's ball boy, and he made me do all of the hard conditioning with the team. Which I was okay with, but sometimes he kept the team at practice until 8 or 9 or even close to 10 o'clock at night. And I just got fed up with him. I didn't sign up to be a ball boy and retrieve all the crap he forgot to bring in the first place. And show up early and leave late helping him clean up. He worked me just as hard as the team it seemed, and I wasn't even going to get to play. And he started getting an attitude towards me, like I broke my arm on purpose. So I quit. And I regretted it the rest of the season. At least twice a week in P.E., Mireles would remind me that I would never play football for him again, and if I was lucky enough to get back on the team, I would have hell to pay in practice. And he threatened me that insurance wasn't going to cover my medical now, since I had quit. Mr. Collins (the principal) somehow caught wind of Mireles's threats (probably from his son, Billy Frank) and they stopped, and the medical was taken care of. Lucky for me, Mireles wasn't around for P.E. much. He made Coach Reicheneau do all the work. Coach Reicheneau was a pretty good guy.
But anyway, like I said, I'm pretty sure Mireles was insane. And I do believe that's why that team fell apart. He worked them way too hard. And when they started losing, he only worked them harder. He had these drills he would make the team do all the time, like Bloody Hundreds and Bullpen, and sometimes he even did them the day before games. Ricky, however, was great that year. He ran for 3 Td's in his first ever high school game. Coach Mireles (and Coach Reicheneau) got fired after that season, and trust me, with what I would have had to go through to get back on the team, no one was happier about that than me. I was pretty happy when I got my cast off, too. So was Darren. He told me every day "that cast is starting to stink, cut that thing off!" He even convinced me to pour something down there, some air freshner or something. It only made it worse, of course. Then the next day Darren would have something new to pour down there. I finally cut it off about two weeks earlier than I should have, mostly because of Darren. Looking back, I'm surprised we didn't create some sort of chemical reaction that ate through my arm!
Coach Robbins (head coach) and Coach Hoyer were our coaches for the next two years. I loved playing for those guys. All of the players did. Coach Robbins was convinced that he had the best offense in the world. One that couldn't be stopped when executed properly. He line up 4 wide receivers, two on each side of the field, and spread it out as far as he could. The receivers would be just a few feet from the sidelines on both sides of the field. I was on the left side, with Bryan Vernor. Oscar Aguilera was on the right side, with Keno Falcon. And one running back, Raul Nevarez, would be directly behind Ricky. Then we would run mostly two plays out of this formation, either base option left or base option right. We had plenty of other plays, and plenty of other formations, but those were mostly what we ran. Ricky had the option to keep it, pitch it to Raul, or pass to one of the receivers on the side of the field he was rolling towards. The receivers would decide among themselves who was going long, and who was going short, and one on each side would do each. And there were different routes the receivers could run depending on how the defense was lined up. No routes were called in the huddle. It was up to quarterback and the receivers to read the coverage and be on the same page. We had a lot of freedom in that formation, and it was a blast! I don't think there were many quarterbacks in high school football that could have been successful running that offense, but Ricky was amazing.
The next parts of this series, I will get into some of the things that happened over the next three years, two years in this offense and then in the veer offense our senior year. We played in 3 different systems, with 3 different coaching staffs in our 4 years of high school, and still ultimately we were successful.