Photo via Tony Venegas, TexasHSFootball.com

 
In the competitive world of Texas high school football, being the new kids on the block has its growing pains. There was no exception for El Paso’s newest high school team in Pebble Hills who finished 2-8 in 2016 and started right off the bat competing in Class 6A.

“I think they went into every 6A game with a deer in the headlights look,” head coach Mark Torres said of his team, “But after playing for about a quarter and them realizing it’s just football, they were okay.”

This spring, the Spartans are out to continue building on the lessons learned from last year and so far, Torres likes what he sees from his team.

“Since the offseason, the team has come out and taken those tough games and used them as fuel to start the right way. Everything has been building from the ground up and I hope that that continues for us.”

The Spartans will have their first senior class in 2017 and should have a number of playmakers in the skill positions. Versatile running back Kevin Averette is back along with receivers Caleb Gerber, Haredt Gonzalez and Justin Wolfe, who was the team’s leading receiver last season. Now with a full season of varsity experience under their belt, the offense is looking to take a big step forward.

“Things have been going well,” Wolfe said of the team’s effort in spring, “On offense, we need to make some more plays and there’s still plenty of work to do but we’ll be all right.”

As for the Spartan defense, they’re led by middle linebacker Kevin Esquivel, who Torres has called the leader of his defense. Up front, Jacob Hernandez (73 tackles) is back and looking for a big senior season as well as cornerback Jaylien Spires, who Torres also has singled out as a top performer.

There were a lot of growing pains last season for a team still building depth, but as they showed in a scrimmage on Wednesday, it’s a unit that has taken strides this spring.

“As a unit, we’ve been working on consistency and not giving up those big plays,” Hernandez said on the defense’s improvement, “We’ve had a really rigorous offseason and you can see everyone is just bigger, faster and stronger and we can see the work paying off.”

“Any time the defense is able to play fast, they’re good,” Torres said, “We’re still working on getting better but the communication has been the biggest thing we’ve improved on.”

As the Spartans finish up spring ball next week, the word of the day is improvement and most everyone on the team feels that the experience of 2016 will go a long way towards taking the next step in 2017.

“We’re coming into this season a little bit more confident,” Wolfe said, “We were younger than everybody else but now that we have a taste of what to expect, we’ve been working really hard to get better and we’ll see where we go.”

“The only key that we have is to improve,” Torres said. “I think we did that towards the end of last year. They played better against some of the top teams in our district and that was very encouraging heading into the offseason. As long as we continue to head in the right direction, I think we’ll be where we need to be when all is said and done.”
 

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