The 2017 Texas high school football season officially kicks off out in Far West Texas as the Irvin Rockets (5A) travel to the Socorro Independent School Student Activity Complex (SAC) to face off against the Pebble Hills Spartans (6A) on Thursday afternoon in El Paso. The fact that this game is the first one to kick off the season is not something lost on both teams.
“We told our team back when the schedule came out and I told them that our goal is to be the first ones on the field and the last ones coming off in the city,” said Pebble Hills head coach Mark Torres.
“I want to see the team get excited just because we are playing the first game across the state of Texas,” said Irvin defensive back Joel Tarango, “That should pump us up and get us going.”
Irvin enter theirs second season under head coach Joe Urias, looking to improve after a tough 2-8 season that saw his team endure multiple injuries and having to call up several sophomores from junior varsity to finish off the season. Those players are back but Urias knows that his alma mater has work to do.
“Eight to 10 sophomores played on varsity last year,” he told TexasHSFootball.com, “We’re going to be younger and inexperienced and we have to grow up fast.”
The Rockets also have to deal concerns with depth as they have several players playing ironman football on a team that’s expected to field anywhere between 30-35 players in 2017. The aforementioned Tarango will see time at both receiver and cornerback while junior Eric Hooks will be depended on out of the backfield as a runner and linebacker.
“We’ve done that for years here in the Northeast and we know that’s just part of the deal,” Urias said, “We did that back in the day when the school was more of a powerhouse but the players took pride in that and the kids today are doing the same thing here.”
On the other sideline, head coach Mark Torres leads Pebble Hills into the second year of varsity play as a program and their first with a senior class. He likes what he sees from his team so far and believes that they are ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.
“It’s night and day,” Torres said, “I know they came in last year a little bit timid not knowing what to expect. That hasn’t happened this year. They’re a lot more confident and a little swagger as well. They’ve always practiced hard and I think they can take that into games and be comfortable.”
Pebble Hills will rely on plenty of speed on offense in receivers Caleb Gerber, Justin Wolfe and Haredt Gonzalez along with all-purpose back Kevin Averette. He knows that the Spartans are the heavy favorites in the game, but is imploring the team to remain focused and take care of business.
“Irvin’s not going to be flashy. You just have to out-execute them,” Torres said, “They’re a very sound football team and I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress throughout the season.”
This will be the second ever meeting between the two programs as Pebble Hills won last year’s showdown 34-6. Thursday’s matchup should also be motivation enough for both teams as whoever wins will be able to claim the first win of the season in the state of Texas.
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