Though there are some holes to fill and a new coaching group on board, the SaberCats figure to be among the favorites to once again capture District 31-6A. Vela comes off a 9-2 mark in 2016, a football season which ended with a shocker loss to Weslaco East in bi-district after the Sabes had been planning a lengthy playoff run.

For the latest edition of Blue and Black, Nate Garcia and Nick Enriquez are at the fore of the effort. Each is among the top players in the Valley his position, meaning that Coach John Campbell can count on experience at quarterback and safety, respectively.

The rest of the story to unfold from now until August will be an interesting one, as the depth chart looks stacked in some areas, light in others. Perhaps the most pressing area of emphasis will be the offensive line, where Jayden Borjas is one of the only kids back with Friday Night Lights time spent. On the other side of the trench, Tim Ellington looks set at an end, bringing a linebacker’s quickness to the speed rush drill.

With burly Luis Gutierrez set in a LB slot, a number of promising prospects will vie for the spot next to him, with converted running back Sam Valenzuela an intriguing possibility there. Behind that group, the secondary will retool after significant graduation losses; keep an eye on lanky playmaker Bryan Farias, also a receiver of note.

Speaking of receivers, the Sabes have a seasoned option in Brandon Guzman, and a superb tight end in Nico Rodriguez. Both those kids had nice years in 2016 running under the aerials of Garcia, a definite All-Valley candidate heading into his senior campaign.

With the transfer of star in the making Christian Flores, the bulk of the running chores could fall to junior-to-be Marc Buhidar, and he showed last year that he could do the job. Buhidar appears to be a dangerous receiver as well, and his hard-nosed blocking is first cabin all the way.

One area that Vela is counting as a strength is the kicking game, as both Tate Scott and Austin Garza have ability and experience.

The program will head into the latest season as one of the teams to beat in 2017, no doubt about it.