There’s an old adage in football, all about controlling what you can and not worrying about the rest of it. For John Campbell and the SaberCats, the mantra is being tested as we speak, due to factors beyond anyone’s control.
With Hurricane Harvey blowing through the region last week, Vela’s first and only scrimmage of the preseason was washed away, meaning that the Sabes – having participated in spring ball – will head to the season opener Sept. 1 with no preliminary licks against an opponent.
“It’s definitely not what you would like, to fly blind into the opener, without any film from a scrimmage,” said the first-year coach Thursday night. “We were looking forward to playing against someone besides ourselves, but there’s nothing we can do about the weather.”
Despite the hiccup, Campbell is excited about the opportunity to begin his reign with the program, after a number of seasons coaching in the San Antonio area with Brandeis, among other stops.
“I am pleased as can be with the work we have done so far,” he commented. “We were looking forward to having a baseline, a barometer, from a scrimmage but we have seen enough so far to feel good about where we’re at. Across the board I think we are going to have a chance to be pretty good.”
Campbell praised his defensive line as a group that has stood out so far in the run-up to the kickoff game, at home against Victoria East Friday.
“Also, I think the offensive line has really improved over the past several weeks,” he added. “It was kind of a question mark for us, we have some new faces, but overall I would say that the group has made real strides in improvement.”
The line has a new look, indeed, after losing four starters to graduation, and its production and consistency in 2017 will go a ways toward determining the success of a nice group of skill players.
Campbell said that returning QB Nate Garcia, one of the best in the Valley as a junior, is throwing the ball better than ever, and that the Sabes have a trio of running backs who have come on strong.
“Sam Valenzuela is one of them, he’s a big kid with some athleticism, and then Harvey Soliz, more of our perimeter slasher,” he noted. “Plus we have a sophomore named [Kevin] McKinney who may end up being the most complete player in time. Sure we are going to miss a super back like Robert Guerra, but all three of our guys right now can catch the ball, none of them are a liability in terms of pass protection, and so we feel pretty good about the group we have.”
As for the overall process so far, the veteran mentor said that the community support for his club has been tremendous.
“I know up in Midland or Odessa they might argue about this, but I find that in the Rio Grande Valley, you can’t go wrong,” he enthused. “People love their football and they are very supportive of their teams, especially here at Vela. Right now we are getting ready for the opener, and frankly we’re worried about other areas across the state, too. Corpus is going to get hit pretty hard and maybe Victoria too, so we are just hoping that those teams have a school and field to go to once this mess is over. You just control what you can, and the rest will sort its way out.”