Building a high school football program from the ground up is never an easy task. That task becomes even more challenging when the first varsity season is in the highest classification of Texas high school football.
That’s what the Pebble Hills Spartans learned in 2016. El Paso’s newest high school program started in District 1-6A and finished with a 2-8 overall and a 1-6 finish in district play. With their first senior class coming back next year, the Spartans have an opportunity to take the next step in 2017.
If recent history is any indication, Pebble Hills is in line for a decent-sized jump. The two youngest programs in El Paso after Pebble Hills (Eastlake and El Dorado) each had winning seasons in Year 2. El Dorado finished 6-4; Eastlake went 8-3 and won a share of the district title in 5A.
Head coach Mark Torres will have another year to develop his first senior class and implement his offensive system. Like his brother Ruben (the head coach at El Dorado), Mark will want to spread things out and work to be a little bit more up tempo on offense. The Spartans showed quite a bit of potential on that side of the ball.
The defense will have another year to improve after facing the up-tempo spread offenses that their competition in District 1-6A like to run. They have some playmakers, but they’ll have to find a way and contain the offenses to give their unit a chance.
No one. The nice thing about being a brand-new program is that after your first year, everybody is projected to come back. Now that everyone has a year of experience in varsity play, it should make Year 2 an easier transition.
ATH Kevin Averette, ATH Caleb Gerber, WR Justin Wolfe, QB Orlando Puig, LB Kevin Esquivel
On offense, the Spartans have two strong areas going for them: speed and versatility. That’s most apparent in their backs and receivers. Kevin Averette and Caleb Gerber fit that mold perfectly and complement each other with Averette’s power and Gerber’s elusiveness. Each of them finished with nearly 800 total yards of offense and will be expected to contribute in a big way for the Spartans.
As a downfield threat, Justin Wolfe will probably be the go-to guy in that category. He finished the year as the Spartans’ leading receiver (576 yards, 8 TDs) and Torres will look to him as another target that can stretch the field. Wolfe is the leading returner in a talented receving core In Wolfe, Averette, and Gerber. Cameron Seabrook, Kenji Redix, and Haredt Gonzalez are also part of that group.
Ultimately, how that group does will center around quarterback Orlando Puig. At 5’8”, Puig is not the biggest quarterback but he showed a lot of toughness throughout the season and ended the season on a hot streak, throwing for over 300 yards in his final three games and almost had a fourth one (295 against Socorro).
Finally, leading tackler Kevin Esquivel is back to lead a Spartan defense that will look to improve in Year 2. He, along with Gavril Bone and defensive back Jacob Hernandez, will anchor a front seven that will be more experienced and more prepared to take on the high powered offenses in 1-6A.
One of the biggest things you look for in a new program is how much improvement you see in Year 2. With a year of varsity experience, Pebble Hills will have a lot of room to grow in 2017.
The offense will certainly be there, but the defense could be the key as to how far the Spartans go in 2017.
Given the big steps that each of the two newest programs had in their second year and given what the top contenders in the district have to replace, a .500 season could be in the picture for the Spartans. There is no doubt that they will be an intriguing team to watch next season.
Brought to you by: