Iraan made it all the way to state last December only to face a juggernaut in Bremond, who won its third-straight state championship. Reaching the pinnacle game was a work in progress for Iraan, which capped the most successful four-year stretch in school history.
Heck, only Bremond may have had a better win-loss record the last four years as the Tigers went 59-1. Well, Iraan lost four games in four years, going 49-4 in that span, only losing in the playoffs.
Iraan went 15-1 last year and purely dominated opponents on its way to Jerry World. After blowing out Crane, Ozona and McCamey to start the season, the Mason Punchers played Iraan close, but the Braves prevailed with a 24-21 win. Iraan’s next-closest game was a 10-point win at Sonora in the final non-district game.
The Braves’ path to state started with a 54-21 win over Baird and 47-6 thumping of Santo in the first two rounds. They faced perennial powers the next three rounds and took care of business. There was the 33-14 win over Albany in the regional, 40-12 win over Munday in the state quarterfinal and 42-21 win over Wellington in the semifinal.
Iraan had to face Bremond and its dangerous quarterback — 2016 Mr. Football Roshauud Paul. The Braves went toe-to- toe with the two-time defending champ through almost three quarters. Midway through the third Bremond held a 28-21 lead, but Paul had three dazzling touchdown runs to put the game away for a 49-28 win.
Iraan averaged 43 points a game last season and allowed just 15 a game. However, the Braves return just four starters on each side of the ball.
QB/LB Clayton Kent, RB/DT Daryel Lozoya, OLB Rolondo Olivo
The Braves’ offense was simply unstoppable last season with quarterback Clayton Kent and running back Daryel Lozoya operating behind a big, experienced offensive line with Wyatt Banner, Steven Garlock, Rolando Olivo and Shelion Rodriguez.
Olivo was also the district’s Defensive Player of the Year.
RB/DB Kyle O’Bannon, DL Isaac Mendoza, WR/DB Corley Collins
O’Bannon has been a two-way starter for three years and he’ll need to shoulder quite a load this fall. Last year he rushed for 1,107 yards, caught passes for 456 yards, had six interceptions and 28 total touchdowns.
Brodey Myers should step into the quarterback role this fall, and the Braves will work with pretty much a new offensive line.
Mendoza was a first-team all-district selection last year as a sophomore. Axcel Santana joins him on the defensive line.
The Braves may have been hit hard by graduation, but coach Mark Kirchhoff has good players to step into new roles.
Iraan has set the bar on winning, and confidence should spill over into this fall’s team. The road to the playoffs and to state will once again be tough — perhaps the toughest of any region in the state in any class.
Wink and Van Horn will pose the biggest threats in district, and the path to the state quarterfinals will most likely have Munday, Muenster, Wink, Albany and Santo all in the way again.
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