Sophomore season (continued)
All of those seniors had graduated (obviously) our sophomore year. We had a very young team. We only had a one senior I think, Oscar Aguilera. And we only had a handful of juniors like Raul Nevarez, Keno Falcon, Eliseo Aguero, Joe Valenzuela and Bryan Vernor. Almost all of the starters on our team were made up of sophomores, first time starters. And we were bad. Real bad. We lost our homecoming game 67-0 against Charlotte, who were ranked in the top 10 in state at that time. Paul Benavides was an all-state running back and he ran wild on us. We couldn't stop him. And Charlotte ran it up. They didn't take their starters out of the game until the 4th quarter, probably hoping a thrashing in a district game would move them up in the polls. It was worst football defeat in the state of Texas that Friday night, as we were reminded many times over the next few years, mostly by students who didn't even play football. That was by far the low point of the season and the worst sports moment I've ever experienced.
Many of the rest of our games that year were pretty close but we couldn't win any of them. We went 1-9 overall. I started at receiver and on defense and I caught about 25 passes that year, including a TD in the only game we won (12-6 over Brackettville). It was a short pass, maybe 10 yards, and I wasn't even supposed to be in the route. I was supposed to be blocking on the play, only one one receiver was in the pattern, the halfback, but Ricky either didn't know this or didn't care because he told me to get open, and I did. It was the only TD I scored all season.
Ricky threw something like 30 interceptions that year, but like I said, we were bad. He got very little blocking and he still ran for over 1,000 yards. He threw me one particular pass, right in my hands, in the end zone, at home against D'Hanis very late in the season, and I had it for a moment and then dropped it. I heard footsteps. I hate to admit it, but I did. And I got popped afterwards anyway. It was the only catchable pass I ever dropped in a game. (That may be up for debate, especially if you ask Ricky!) The game was already out of reach and there was only a couple of minutes left, but it still would have been nice to catch that pass. Coach Robbins brought that up to me many times over the next offseason. "You have to get stronger! So you can catch those passes against D'Hanis in the endzone!" He didn't have to remind me. I promised myself I was never going to drop one of those again no matter how hard I got hit. Strength had nothing to do with that one. That one was all about will.
By the last game of the season, things had gotten pretty much out of control. A bunch of kids skipped practice, went out drinking instead, and Coach Robbins made a stand. He kicked every player that didn't show up for practice that day off the team. Which meant we only had 13 players for our last game of the season, on the road against Asherton. Ricky was off the team, so was every junior and senior, except Bryan Vernor and Raul Nevarez. A lot of players played different positions. I returned a few kickoffs. Bryan and Raul mostly played quarterback, and I think Darren, an offensive lineman, even got a few snaps in. I'm not sure we even completed a pass in the game, maybe one or two short ones. We lost that final game by a couple of TD's, but there was still a feeling of acomplishment that 13 of us saw this thing through to the end. It was a horrible season but we had become more competitive as the year went on and we all felt things would be very different next season.
(In a couple of days, I'm going to put the rest of the sophomore section with the first post I did on this topic.)
Before our junior season, the preview magazine Dave Campbell's Texas Football had this opening sentence about our team:
"Qb Ricky Sifuentes, FB Raul Nevarez, and WR's Trip Casey and Bryan Vernor lead a squad intent on turning around the 1-9 record of a year ago."
Yes, I have many, many Dave Campbell's magazines from way back. And Campbell was right on with this sentence. Except it wasn't just the four of us that decided we were done with losing. There was Darren Lloyd. Keno Falcon. Steve Evans. Eliseo Aguero. Pat Eubank. Will Eubank. Jeff Herndon. Junior Hidalgo. Joe Valenzuela. Chip Haby. There were a lot of others that I'm failing to mention right now. The players that returned from that 1-9 season were better. Bigger, faster and stronger. We were ready to win football games.
But what put the team over the top was a few newcomers to the squad. Clint Hale had moved to the school from Brownwood, Texas, where, yes, he had played football for the legendary Gordon Wood. Clint gave the team another player with some size and athleticism, both on the offensive line and even more importantly, the defensive front. Clint was one more player that our team desperately needed to keep from getting pushed around in the trenches. Ray Hatley and Richard DeLeon were two freshmen, and they gave us a little more toughness, not from the start but as the season moved on. I'll continue with the final two years of high school in the next parts, the most fun playing football that a small group of kids from South Texas would ever have.