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In George Espinoza’s inaugural season as head football coach at La Joya High School (LJHS) last year, the Coyotes managed only one district win against seven losses. That one win came in their district opener against an eventual winless Edinburg Vela team. The same Sabercats team will face the Coyotes in this year’s district 30-5A opener Thursday, Sept. 12.
If all goes as planned for Espinoza and his Coyotes, history will repeat itself against Vela but instead of finishing the season with a seven game slide there will be several wins en-route to the first playoff berth for LJHS since the three-way split in 2008.
To turn that plan into reality, the Coyotes will be relying heavily on four key players; junior quarterback Julio Garcia, senior receiver Omar Ozuna, senior outside linebacker Eric Rodriguez and senior strong safety Sergio Martinez.
As a sophomore last year, Garcia was called in to start several games as the result of a season-ending injury to then starting quarterback Manny Lucio. While Lucio’s misfortune gave Garcia the opportunity to exhibit his talent, it also opened his eyes to the fact that he still had a long way to go.
“I threw for over 500 passing yards last year but unfortunately I also threw a lot of interceptions,” said Garcia. “I’ve been working on that over the off-season and hopefully I’ll have better protection this year and I’ll be able to cut down on the interceptions.”
Garcia believes his Coyotes will have a better season this year than they did last because he sees this year’s team having a never-say-die attitude that last year’s team did not.
“Everybody has a better mindset this year,” said Garcia. “When we’d make a mistake last year everybody would give up. This year, we have it in our heads that it’s not over until the final whistle blows.”
In his junior year last season, wide receiver Omar Ozuna had 15 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown for the Coyotes. In preparation for his senior season, Ozuna has been working hard on getting his timing with Garcia down.
“Julio and I have been working hard all summer long,” said Ozuna. “We played seven-on-seven ball and we now know what to expect from each other. We are also able to anticipate what we’re each going to do on the football field much better than we were able to last year.”
“Our fans need to come out to see us play,” added Ozuna. “We’re going to have a much better season and our goal is to win the state championship.”
In his third year on the varsity squad, Eric Rodriguez is ready to make his senior season his best ever. While he does occasionally get to carry the ball as a running back, being a linebacker is what he really loves to do.
“As an outside linebacker you have to know what to do when you see the ball coming at you,” explained Rodriguez. “You have to react quickly and that’s what I like the most about the position.”
Rodriguez agrees with his quarterback when it comes to why he expects this year’s Coyotes to be so much better than last.
“Our team’s mindset is totally different from last year,” added Rodriguez. “We need more players out here but the players we have already are ready to play and they are committed to winning.”
Senior strong safety Sergio Martinez agrees with his teammates about the Coyotes’ 2013 season being one in which the fans will see a vast improvement over last year’s disappointing seventh place finish.
“We’ve been working and growing as a family,” shared Martinez. “The players that we have right now have been working hard and coming to practice every day.”
“I really hope that the fans will come out to support us because it’s going to be fun to watch us play,” added Martinez.
After the Coyotes’ district opener at Vela Sept. 12, they will host Sharyland Sept. 19, travel to Edinburg Economedes Oct. 3, host sister school Juarez-Lincoln Oct. 11, travel to Edinburg High Oct. 18, host Donna Oct. 25, be the visiting team at La Joya Stadium against Palmview Nov. 1 and finish up at home against Edinburg North Nov. 8.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.