September 19, 2014 marks the last time that Tornillo won a football game, a 47-7 win over Mesilla Valley Christian (NM). Since that last win, it’s been a tough ride for the Coyotes, who currently hold a 27-game losing streak and are ready to move past that this season.
“I don’t like losing,” said senior running back and linebacker DJ Gallegos, “It’s not a good feeling.”
To turn things around, the Coyotes have turned to a familiar face in Cody Burris, who has worn just about every hat possible working in high school athletics and is a familiar face among the athletes at the far east El Paso County school. He’s served as the boy’s basketball coach, assistant coach for football, facilities director, athletic director and had a hand in nearly every sport for the last 12 seasons. Now, he’s ready to face “the biggest challenge I’ve taken on at Tornillo.”
“I posted the number 27 in the weight room so our team could see that every day,” Burris said of the streak, “They didn’t know what that number was for a long time and after about eight weeks, I told them what it was and of course their eyes got big. I told them, ‘That’s the first goal. Break the losing streak and get something going in a positive direction as far as wins and losses.’”
It appears that message has resonated with his players. Burris mentioned that he has a morning and afternoon weight room session during the summer and by just showing up, his team notes that there’s a different energy that hasn’t been there in years past.
“The biggest difference we’ve seen so far is in the weight room during the summer,” said junior quarterback Rey Feliz, “We’ve seen a lot more guys here compared to last year and that’s a big step up.”
“More people have shown up and are here to work,” said senior center and defensive end Roger Garcia, “That makes me really happy because I know that everyone is working and getting prepared, especially the younger guys.”
As is the case for many small schools, Tornillo (3A) football has athletes play multiple sports outside of the gridiron. Programs from boy’s basketball, cross country and track have all had multiple successes from district titles to runners individually qualifying for state. Seeing other programs have that success has brought out a hunger from a football team looking to get a taste of achievement.
“Seeing the success of the other sports here gives me hope and motivation,” Garcia said, “We can strive to be where they got to whether it’s winning district or going places and just showing what Tornillo is all about.”
Another source of motivation is coming from the facility transformation at the school. The construction is well underway for a new on-campus athletic facility that includes a new field house, weight room, football stadium and track. The stadium is expected to be completed by the time the season starts but some of the players got a sneak peek at their new field.
“It gives us a boost of energy and more motivation to go out and show that we deserved this and show everyone the hard work that we’ve been putting in this summer,” Feliz said.
“I’m pretty excited about all the new facilities,” Garcia said, “I want to be a part of the turnaround of the program and eventually have more players sign up. It’s going to be a new experience for everyone and I want to especially see the younger guys behind us come up and succeed.”
The new attitude was also on display during the 7 on 7 league that the Coyotes participated in for the first time. It was a big change that all the players enjoyed but they all agreed on the biggest lesson they took away from that experience.
“I feel like we’ve all become mentally tougher,” Feliz said, “After all this losing, it gets tough to see us down on the scoreboard. But after 7 on 7, there were multiple games that we were down by a couple scores and we were able to come back from that. It’s something that we’ve been working on.”
As the season and the opening of the new stadium, the Coyotes are locked in and ready to turn the tide on a new era of Tornillo football.
“It’s been a culture thing,” Burris said, “We’re going to get bigger, faster, stronger and just do work every day.”
“It’s a different year,” Gallegos said, “We feel good and there’s actually a lot of hope heading into this year.”
“It’s all mental,” Garcia said, “If we think we can do it, we can do it. That’s all we need to focus on.”
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