It’s the first day of practice for the La Joya Coyotes under new Head Coach Reuben Farias where electricity fills the air as the football team enters a new era, trying to right the ship of a program rich in pride and tradition.
Taking over the reins of a program he is more than familiar with, Coach Farias has been the receivers and special teams coach for three years. In addition, he served as the Coyotes’ head baseball coach for 13 years before stepping down last year to assume the role of head football coach and athletic coordinator. He also follows in the footsteps of his father, Ruben Farias, who coached the Coyotes’ football, baseball, and basketball programs in the 1970’s.
“Keep working hard and keep grinding. Day-to-day, it’s not going to be easy,” said Farias, a 1984 La Joya High graduate, where he played football and baseball. “As long as each day, each player has a daily goal. Whatever their goal might be, say not fumbling or catching 60% of passes, they have to just meet that one daily goal; then as a team we all have goals position wise. If we all meet those daily goals we’ll see positive results.”
Under previous head coach George Espinoza, the Coyotes totaled a 10-31 record over four years. While Espinoza was able to lead the Coyotes to the playoffs in 2014, the team’s first appearance since the 2007 team who went three rounds deep, the team did not reach a .500 win record in the four years.
In 2015, the Coyotes finished sixth in District 30-6A while posting a 3-7 record, winning just two district games and dropping their final three games in a season hindered by untimely injuries, the inability to put points on the scoreboard offensively and the defense being on the field too long. The offense only scored 20 points once in 10 games last season, while the defense held opponents to 22 points or less in six games on the season. The good news is junior quarterback Irving Garcia is returnng for what is expected to be an improved year offensively.
Coach Farias explained where the team is focusing their change and the goals he has set for the team in his first year as he also tries to accomplish what his father once did as the Coyotes head football coach – make the playoffs.
“Our defense allowed us to be in a lot of ball games. Offensively, we didn’t score enough points. We had opportunities when our defense would force 3 and outs and then we would go 3 and out and they’d be right back on the field. This year we’re trying to have more ball control, run the ball efficiently and score 21 points a game. Those are our goals offensively. Our team goals are to get a .500 record and get in the playoffs.”
Senior wideout Edwin Castillo is excited to be back on the field for his final year where he is happy to play his part as one of the team leaders.
“It feels great to be out here with the underclassmen and get to show them how it is,” the 6’0” wideout said. “This year we need more communication, execution and moving the ball offensively.”
As the team was closing out their second of their two-a-day practices Monday morning with conditioning – timed 100-yard sprints – a blast of encouragement erupted from one of the student athletes.
“If you see your brother down, lift him up!” shouted one fired up Coyote, encouraging teammates.
This was the attitude felt throughout their first day of practice, people flying around the field, excited to be working together towards the fast approaching Friday night lights.
Tito Delgado, a senior and 1st Team 30-6A All District selection at halfback in 2015, looks to build off a good junior campaign he hopes can translate to team success in his senior year.
“We’re family and we’re starting to get our groove back together. We don’t let anyone get down. If someone gets hit, we’re going to pick them back up. It’s a brotherhood and nothing’s going to break it,” said Delgado, who could spend time at quarterback in addition to his halfback role. “Last year we had a bunch of underclassmen that stepped up to the plate. This year we have a bunch of motivation and leadership coming from our seniors. This year we all need to execute to boost our confidence.”
While the defensive play was one of the highlights of last season and with only six returning starters in 2016, the Coyotes know they need to do everything within their power to give their team the best chance to win. Senior 1st Team All District selection at outside linebacker Anthony Chapa talked about what he feels the team needs to change from last year to see success this year.
“Finish. We need to finish in the fourth quarter. That’s what killed us last season, we’d get tired in the fourth quarter and we wouldn’t finish. This year we have to finish,” said Chapa, one of the defensive leaders on the team. “We have to play like a family, pushing each other to finish games and finish the season as a team and as a family.”