It is hard to say what Fred Sanchez means to Sharyland Football. For the past twelve years Sanchez has worked to turn Sharyland into a powerhouse in the Rio Grande Valley. After numerous bi-district appearances, district championships on the 3A, 4A and 5A levels, the legendary coach decided to end his coaching career to explore other possibilities.
“You know it was time,” said Sanchez in a one-on-one interview. “I had a true peace about it. It’s really best for me and the situation. When it is right, it’s right. Everything was just right.”
Doing things the right way may adequately explain the football program at Sharyland. The coach and his program will long be remembered for turning the Rattlers into a feared opponent that has especially been good as of late, dominating District 30-5A in 2009 and 2010 before finishing as runner-up this past season. In fact, while Sanchez was head coach at Hidalgo prior to taking the Shary job, he looked to Sharyland as an untapped goldmine.
“They had the potential,” said Sanchez of his thoughts prior to being hired. “We would play against them and we would beat them. I would say, ‘I don’t know how in the heck we beat those guys. Look at all the talent and size.’ Then all of a sudden they would play and beat the best in 4A or play up to par.”
The raw talent as well as the opportunity to turnaround a struggling program is what pushed Sanchez to take the job, despite being the school’s second choice. Originally Leslie Goad was given the job but he quit four months later in the spring.
“I didn’t get the job but when they called me back a couple months later in May—right in the middle of two-a-days—and asked me if I would be interested…I said yes. I took it and didn’t look back.”
Intriguing to Sanchez was the opportunity to build a program. The goldmine that was Sharyland needed a mineshaft.
“To me, it was going to be more meaningful to get a job that hadn’t really been successful and turn that thing around, [rather] than to continue one that has already been successful and already had tradition. It was going to be something I wanted to personally achieve and make something out of them.”
Perhaps a key to Sanchez’s success has been his ability to adjust the game according to what fits best for his team and what will fit the best for the future. At first the Rattlers employed the Wing T, a run dominated offense. It was immediately successful as Shary scored easily and had big and strong bruising players to run it.
However, Sanchez began to notice that his offense needed some changing when many of his top players were getting hurt more often. Seeking a change, the coach called on Sam Harrell—former head coach at Ennis High School and father to Texas Tech legend Graham Harrell—to give the Sharyland staff a clinic on the Spread offense. While teaching the clinic down here in the Valley, Sanchez and Harrell realized their fathers had played college football together at Sul Ross in Alpine, Texas. The realization confirmed to Sanchez his new offense had good things to come.
Those good fruits came in the first year of use in 2008. Sharyland went three-rounds deep that year, beating Del Rio and PSJA. In 2009 and 2010, the Rattlers won back-to-back district championships. In 2011, the team was one of the Valley’s best.
With that in mind some have wondered why Sanchez would retire at a time when the program is at its apex. In fact, some have suspected the coach was pushed out by upset parents. Despite that, Sanchez and others insists that is not the case but that the time was just right.
The question now is who will replace the legendary coach. The former coach would prefer the coaching search would begin in-house.
“If it’s not broke why fix it?” Sanchez asks. “There are qualified people here. No question about it. They have been here a long time and are qualified. They have paid their dues.”
No matter how it turns out, Sanchez is happy with his decision and is looking forward to the future. Last of all, Sanchez is grateful to the people of Sharyland, the school board, the superintendent and others for accepting him in the community and keeping him around.
“I am very thankful for them giving me the opportunity. I am thankful for the board and [others] for keeping me here. The kids were great. I had some great memories here. I have a lot to thank because those people are the ones who hired me. They are all good.”
Sharyland Football Under Fred Sanchez
*Overall Record: 94-42 (116-52, overall)
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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.