At first glance, the La Joya Coyotes had an extremely disappointing 2013 season. With their only win being a non-district 64-0 thrashing of Brownsville Porter, the Coyotes went on to lose eight straight games en route to a 1-9 season.
While it has been said that numbers never lie, they can be deceptive. And according to La Joya head football coach George Espinoza that is the case when it comes to the team’s 2013 record.
“Last year we knew going into the season that we were very young,” explained Espinoza. “Therefore as a staff we decided that what we needed to do was to give our young players some experience. We had a lot of sophomores that got thrown into the mix right away and they had to grow up.”
“Even though we did have a 1-9 season, we’ve gone back and we’ve looked at each loss and there were four or five ball games that we should’ve won,” added Espinoza. “When you look at how many sophomores we had in there and how many critical mistakes we made in the red zone – how many times we jumped off-sides on offense or we had busted coverages on defense – those are all things that can be attributed to sophomore mistakes.”
Espinoza is optimistic about 2014 being a turnaround year for his Coyotes. The fact that he has already had good numbers coming out for the team with more expected now that school has started only adds to that optimism.“We’re looking good as far as our numbers,” said Espinoza. “That’s the biggest thing that we can see as far as our turnaround. We probably have around 145 players suited out already. Just last week when we came out the day before our scrimmage we had about 76 kids suited up and ready to go through the pre-game even though we had some injuries and some kids that couldn’t make it because they had to work. As of right now our numbers for varsity and junior varsity are in the 80’s while we have 50 or so freshmen.”
As a result of the UIL’s most recent renaming of classifications, La Joya High is now a member of 30-6A (formerly 30-5A). Since there are only seven teams in their district, as opposed to nine last year, the Coyotes will have a better shot at making the playoffs this year.
With the Coyotes, the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies and the Palmview Lobos all vying for playoff spots, chances are that this year a La Joya ISD football team will break into the playoffs for the first time since the three-way split of La Joya High in 2008.
Will that team be the Coyotes? Espinoza likes his team’s chances if things go his way.
“The key thing for us will be to stay healthy,” shared Espinoza. “Our numbers have improved but we’re still not at the level that programs like Sharyland, Edinburg North and Weslaco, who carry 40 or 50 seniors on their roster, are at. While we may still be a year away of having the kind of experience they have, we’ve seen a lot of good things from this group. We started out at ground zero with these guys, but they’ve started to believe in themselves and in the program and that’s what you want.”
The Coyotes will have seven players on offense and seven on defense that were either starters last year or played on a regular basis. As for which of those players will be lining up at the skill positions come game time against Roma tonight, Espinoza has that all worked out.
“Julio Garcia is entering his third year with the varsity, so he’s going to be our quarterback,” Espinoza said. “Justin Leanos started for us as a sophomore last season and he’s been working hard all summer, so he’s our starting running back. We also have Joel Casas and J.C. Maldonado coming back at the receiver position. While we did lose Omar Ozuna, who was a first team All-District pick for us last year, Joel and J.C. can do the job.”
Other key players Espinoza will be counting on to lead his offense this season include Victor DeHoyos (WR), Overlin Montes (RB) and Zeke Garza who will be entering his third year as a starter at center.
Defensively, the Coyotes’ returning starters include Tony Cerda (DL), Ricky Ornelas (LB), Yonny Villarreal (LB), Frank Melendez (LB), Jorge Munoz (DB), Gabriel Rios (DB) and Genaro Hernandez (CB).