MEXIA, Texas- The Mexia football team lost last week to West Orange-Stark 17-3, but the game did more than end a season.
“They did what a state championship team does,” Mexia coach Frank Sandoval said Tuesday. “They took advantage of two turnovers in the first half, put points on the board. We came out in the second half, come down the field and make it 7-3 and they responded like champions, scoring on us on the next series. That’s what good teams do, that’s why they’re the reigning state champions.”
The loss leaves the Black Cats season at a bittersweet 6-6, higher than most anyone thought possible but lower than they wanted.
…”it’s special, it hasn’t been like this so make sure you just listen, listen to coach because it could be bad, it could be different, so make sure you capitalize….”
Sandoval said his goal was never lower than the state championship. That’s not to say he wasn’t proud of what his team did overcoming what many thought was too high a hurdle. Now, Sandoval and his staff will have a full offseason, to bring the Black Cats back.
He believes it, he says his kids believe it and the community has proven it believes it can as well. And though there is no such thing as a moral victory, especially when you lose, Sandoval knows doing so well against one of the best will help the future.
“I think what we did is we showed people that we’re on the right track,” Sandoval said. “I knew it was going to be a measuring stick for our program, how far along we’ve come in a short amount of time. They’re on a 30-something game winning streak, to play them as closely as we did, proved to our kids, we proved to them we’re on the right track.”
The road to success paves its way through this offseason. Sandoval preaches each kid learn how to win on the field and in the classroom. He believes that will begin now more than ever, with the offseason looming.
Mexia will have its issues at first, as its losing multiple seniors and its quarterback and fine athlete Travion Carter. Losing that much talent always hurts, but the grind that is offseason should bring out at least a few others.
“Our offseason is going to demand someone to step up. There’s no other way to do it,” Sandoval said. “Yeah, we graduate Travion Carter, but there’s going to be Jaden Proctor. Yah, we lose Jaquay Martin, but there’s going to be Josh Beachum and Ty Gamble and Gary McQuirter. There’s going to be guys who step up and we’re going to have to grow them up and they’re going to be forced into that position.
“Some will buckle under pressure but we’re going to have a lot more guys after our offseason step up and handle the pressure and that’s what’s exciting.”
The confidence oozing out of the Black Cat locker room isn’t there by mistake. Including Sandoval, two others on his staff have championship experience. They know how to win, they know what is required and they know how to identify the right athlete. How to build that athlete into a success on, and off, the field.
“I love offseason, I think this is where you win football games and when you build your program,” Sandoval said. “I’m not just a football coach, I’m a coach period. I love powerlifting, I love basketball, I love track, I love baseball. I love watching our kids succeed, its much bigger than sports; it’s a life deal.”
For the community that has endured so much, winning football games almost seems like its enough. But that isn’t where Sandoval is stopping. When not drawing up plays are teaching his kids, he’s also the athletic director. This means football isn’t the only place Black Cat nation can expect wins.
“It’s going to be a program deal,” Sandoval said. “I want people to understand and respect Mexia. It’s about teaching kids how to compete on the field, in the gym, on the track and also in the classroom.”
Despite the loss, the outgoing seniors have every reason to pat their backs. The group had never truly won. And a few days later, it may not yet realize that some will never play organized football again. But the pride they have shines through the disappointment. They know the future is now and hanging heads won’t encourage the future, which is what they’ve done already.
Coach Sandoval said the senior class spoke with the underclassmen recently. He says what was said will help build this program more than they may realize.
“With everything, it’s a learning experience for [the seniors] too,” Sandoval said. “I think what they resonated throughout the underclassmen is it’s special, it hasn’t been like this so make sure you just listen, listen to coach because it could be bad, it could be different, so make sure you capitalize.”
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