(Editor’s note: For the full photo gallery of Tuesday’s practice, click here.)
Times have been lean for one of El Paso’s oldest high schools on the gridiron. The Austin Panthers are currently the owners of a 25-game losing streak and have struggled to gain their footing after establishing themselves as one of the better teams of the city.
Enter Eric Pichardo, a former Austin assistant coach who left to join former offensive coordinator Robert Padilla at Bowie in 2009. Now back in Central El Paso as the man in charge, the first-year head coach is ready to take on the challenge.
He realizes that the process of getting the Panthers back to the level they were at less than a decade ago will not be easy and will take time. Even just two days into preseason practice, he sees a new energy in his players and the willingness to work.
“The team has a great attitude and it starts with our seniors,” Pichardo said of his new team, “When I got here, I was a little nervous about that just because they haven’t won many games. But they’ve been fantastic and that’s going to help us.”
Pichardo presents a calm demeanor on the sidelines, but his players know he is all business when it comes to getting results on the field.
“He’s calm but he expects you to know what you need to know and to constantly work on it,” said cornerback Anthony Hall.
“He brings a lot of energy to the program,” center and nose guard Carlos Rosales said of Pichardo, “He was ready to work from the first day he got here and now he’s trying to put in it our minds here and bring that sense of pride back to Austin.”
To start the process, Pichardo will look to lay the foundation and continue to get back t what made the Panthers a force in the Sun City over the years.
“We need a great defense and a strong running game,” Pichardo said, “Those are our top two priorities.”
From there, he says it’s about getting his players to believe that they could win again. That message resonates with players like Hall and Rosales, who are both seniors. As they begin their final high school football season, both want to end their time on the gridiron on a positive note and be an example for the younger players.
“This senior class has always wanted to win,” Rosales said of the losing streak, “With a new coach and with all the younger players that we have, there definitely is that drive to win and we want to be part of it.”
As for their new head coach, Pichardo wants to do his best to bring back that pride and winning tradition back to Austin just like the first time that he was there.
“The energy is definitely here,” Pichardo said, “It was definitely here the first time. When I came in as an assistant that season, they had just finished 1-9. Back then, we built it slowly but surely until we got to those undefeated years. Winning brings that energy and now we want to build on that.”
Brought to you by: