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Veterans Memorial High School head football coach David Gilpin is always ready, willing and able to talk about his Patriots football team. Ask him one question about his team and he’s off and running. That demonstrates his passion for his job, his school, his team and especially his players.
Having qualified for the playoffs last year was a huge improvement over the Patriots’ 2-8 record the year before, but just making the playoffs is not what Gilpin and his staff are out to accomplish.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve made the playoffs three out of the last four years,” said Gilpin. “Just making the playoffs is not satisfactory, but compared to where the program was prior to that, with only one playoff appearance in seven years, I am very proud of our recent success.”
With only one playoff win over that four-year run, Gilpin knows exactly what it will take for the Patriots’ 2013 season to end satisfactorily in his eyes.
“As a staff and as a program we are talking about taking our success to the next level this year,” explained Gilpin. “That means making a deeper run into the playoffs. Not just getting there and giving a state ranked team that’s bigger and faster than us, such as Flour Bluff, a good game but winning those games.”
Fortunately, a key player is returning this year – junior All-District quarterback Santos Villarreal.
“As a sophomore last year Santos was obviously the best offensive player in our district,” said Gilpin. “He was given the honor of being named 32-4A’s offensive player of the year; an outstanding honor as a sophomore.”
“He threw for over 2,000 yards, ran for over 1,000 yards, accounted for 16 touchdowns passing, twelve rushing and only threw five interceptions,” added Gilpin. “That was an outstanding year. I believe that Santos is currently the best player in the Valley and I’ve told him that ultimately he has the ability of becoming the best player in the state. He’s that good.”
But he can’t do it alone. He needs weapons around him to pass and hand the ball off to. That’s where a number of returning starters on the roster will help the team achieve the level of success Gilpin is expecting.
“We lost our number one receiver in Isaac Guerrero, who moved on to play at Texas Lutheran, but we do have three of our skill position starters back,” explained Gilpin. Petey Ayala, Eric Hidrogo and Freddy Gonzalez.
Gilpin said he is also expecting great things from Bobby Tovar, who played some varsity ball as a freshman last year. “And we’ve got another four to six or seven players that can go in there and play at the varsity level right now.”
Last year’s starter running back Victor Meza will not be back this year.
But, Gilpin said, “we’ve got two guys right now, John Garcia and Mike Cavazos, that I feel will make up for the absence of Victor. What it comes down to is that we lost two of our key skill players in Isaac and Victor but everybody else is back.”
With approximately 200 kids coming out for football this year, Gilpin will have plenty of depth at pretty much every position except offensive line. That’s where he lost three of last year’s starters to graduation. The fact that all three are going on to play college ball is a testament to the quality of players he now needs to fill those spots.
“We do have some holes to fill at offensive line,” said Gilpin. “We’re still looking and evaluating. But like I told my coaches, ‘I believe that we have the potential to be great.’ If Ian Farias is able to come back from his knee injury and lead us from his center position, I think we can be great. At the very least I feel that this offensive line is going to be very good.”
While depth may be a problem on the offensive line, it’s the exact opposite situation on the defensive line, the linebacker positions and in the defensive backfield.
“We feel that we have five to six guys on the defensive line that can start and can play,” shared Gilpin. “We did lose our two starting outside linebackers but we feel that we’re going to be very good at that position. The fact that we have six guys competing for those two spots means that who will be starting for us in those positions is still up in the air.
“The inside linebacker position is a strength of our program right now,” added Gilpin. “We’ve got Adrian Flores, Bernie Lopez, Noah Garcia and only one of those is a senior. At the defensive back position we’re getting everybody back. Those same players that had difficulties adjusting to the speed and pressure of the Friday night lights last year are veteran football players now and you will see a difference in them.”
On special teams, the Patriots have a punter/kicker that Gilpin believes will be playing Division 1 football next year.
“I think our kicker and punter may be the best one in the state of Texas,” said Gilpin. “I think George Cavazos is a Division 1 player. He’s a soccer guy, a track guy and an academic guy; he’s just an all-around great kid. He’s got the leg that if I feel we have to we can attempt field goals of 50-plus yards.”
The Patriots will be opening district play Thursday Sept. 26 at home against Mercedes. They will then travel to Valley View Oct. 4, host Edcouch Elsa Oct. 10, play at Roma Oct. 18, host Mission Oct. 25 and Rio Grande City Nov. 1 and close out the regular season at PSJA Southwest 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.