Beating the odds
Lobos open season against Coyotes tonight
Twenty-twenty was a good news/bad news year for the Palmview Lobos’ football team. The good news is that unlike their two sister schools, the La Joya Coyotes and the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies, the Lobos did not have their entire season cancelled due to COVID. The bad news is that they were only able to get three games in before COVID concerns forced them to cancel the remainder of their season.
The games that the Lobos did get in last year were a 28-21 loss to the McAllen Bulldogs, an 18-17 loss to the Donna Redskins, and a 35-28 loss to the McAllen Memorial Mustangs. While a 0-3 record is not what Lobos’ head coach Margarito “Mage” Requenez had in mind for his team going into the 2020 season, the fact that the margin of loss in all three games was seven points or less, is a good indicator of the fact that Palmview was within striking distance in all three games despite coming up just a bit short on the scoreboard in all three.
Despite the winless record, Requenez has a glass-half-full attitude about last year because playing made it possible for his seniors to have their last hurrah.
“It was nice knowing that the seniors were going to get an opportunity to play,” Requenez said. “It was all about them and that’s what people need to understand sometimes. It’s the love of the game that these kids have and I’m happy that we were able to give them an opportunity to participate in at least a couple of games during their senior year.”
With junior varsity and freshman programs being shut down across the state last year, and with the Delta variant causing many parents to think twice about letting their kids participate in extracurricular activities once again, most varsity football programs across the Valley this year are having trouble getting their numbers up to anywhere near what they were pre-COVID. And the Lobos are in no way immune to this problem.
“We’re just like every team in the Valley,” Requenez said. “It’s hard trying to get these kids back out because their parents are afraid. And we understand as coaches because we also have families It’s just that in the times we’re in right now it’s difficult to try to explain to parents that it’s safe, because it’s not. It’s a gamble that people take and it’s something that if you really love the game you’re going to try to make an effort to be safe and be out here.”
As members of the 10 team District 16-5A Division 1, the Lobos will be going up against the four Brownsville teams, the three McAllen teams, Donna High and Weslaco East in district play. Qualifying for the playoffs in a 10 team district is not going to be easy, but having led the Lobos to the playoffs in five of his seven years as head coach, Requenez knows what it takes to beat the odds.
“It’s always tough every year but it’s especially tough when you’re in a 10 team district,” Requenez said. “You have to make sure that you prepare week-in and week-out and it’s going to take staying healthy just to finish the year because of the situation that we’re in (COVID).
While the Lobos have four starters returning on offense and four on defense, Requenez is the first to admit that being a returning starter does not mean the same thing this year that it normally means, “Even saying that we have four and four (starters), only playing three games doesn’t justify the experience that these kids are missing.”
As for tonight’s season opener against the La Joya Coyotes, Requenez can’t say for sure that his team is ready, but that’s not a problem since defeating the Coyotes is not necessarily his top priority, “You never know when you’re ready to go up against a team. All we can do is to try to come out healthy and that we’re getting better by the week. And that’s our goal against the Coyotes, just making sure that we’ll be ready for next week against Rowe when we start district.”
Palmview junior wide receiver Tony Villarreal is in his second season on the Lobos’ varsity squad. Despite the shortened 2020 season, he’s thankful for having the opportunity he had to play, “It felt good (being able to play) especially knowing that it was my first year playing varsity. Playing allowed me to get the experience out of the way already.”
Senior outside linebacker Danny Guillen is another one of the Lobos’ returning starters. He shared what he’s looking forward to the most about the 2021 season when he said, “Being my senior year, I really just hope that COVID stays out of the way. I’m looking forward to having a full 10 game season and winning some games.”
According to Guillen, the key to success for the Lobos’ defensive unit this season will be adaptability.
“At the end of the day, depending on the team we’re going up against we’ll transition,” Guillen said. “These guys are smart and we can learn fast. We just have to be able to adapt and to learn new defenses for different teams.”
Senior safety Gino Ibarra is looking forward to his senior season being a full one. He is also looking forward to being a leader to the younger members of the team.
“We seniors can teach them (underclassmen) a lot,” Ibarra said. “We can help them to get to our level. They’re our team. We’re a very good team and I feel good being a part of the Palmview Lobos.”
Whether or not the Lobos are going to have a successful season is going to depend a lot on the productivity of senior running back A. J. Chapa. Fortunately for Requenez and the rest of the team, Chapa is looking forward to having a banner season.
“I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to lead, to show up for my team and to get positive yards every play that I can,” Chapa said. “I’ll be trying to help the best way I can to get the team to win.”
Like most of his teammates, Chapa is looking forward to playing a full season this year. The fact that it’s his senior season gives him all the motivation he needs to giving it everything he has and leaving it all on the field.
“It being my senior year, I’m just trying to do the best that I can,” Chapa said. “Hopefully I’ll help take this team to the playoffs. And if all of us put in all the work and effort, we’ll be the best team that we can be.”
Tonight the Lobos will be the visiting team against the Coyotes. That game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. at LJISD Pack Stadium. Next Friday the Lobos will be opening district play when they host the Nikki Rowe Warriors, also at Pack Stadium.