As the new year approached, things were popping for him, from an unfolding senior soccer season to a series of accolades garnered in the football campaign past. And before 2018 is through, Austin Garza just might find himself kicking the football in the college ranks.

Garza, the two-year Vela standout, was named first team All-State last month to go with first team All-Area honors, based on his accurate and timely boots that were a huge part of the SaberCat success.

He connected on 12 of 15 field goals in 2017 and was perfect on extra points, with a strong, steady leg. And Garza proved himself under pressure with one of the greatest moments in school history, banging through a 54-yard game-winner against Hanna in bi-district, inside the closing minute.

Now … Was he surprised at the achievement that ensured him a legacy for all time?

“Well, I was surprised and not surprised,” said the affable senior. “I knew I always had a pretty strong leg, but to go in and make that kick, in a big game with the time running out, in the playoffs … I wasn’t exactly sure that I could do it, really.”

Happily for Garza and Vela, he came through when the chips were on the table, and it appears that he might get a chance to cash in that success down the road. Texas A&M-Commerce came calling last week, making a home visit to see Garza and talk about the next level.

“I would definitely be interested in going, and being on the team as a kicker,” he commented, adding that Sabes Coach John Campbell was able to assist with the meeting, as he has coaching friends at Commerce. “They want to continue to build their program and so we’ll see, I am still going to send my videos out to some other schools, like UTSA and Texas State.”

Commerce is of course the current home of former EHS star Kristov Martinez, who like Garza was a soccer/football standout and has been the Lions’ regular booter for three falls.

“I hadn’t really heard of all that until he came down to visit and talk with the Bobcats. I saw it on the news,” said Garza, referencing the day two weeks ago that Martinez returned to his alma mater to address the troops. “But now I know who he is, so that would be cool to go up there, too, if I get the chance.”

THE REST OF THE STORY

Garza’s fecund postseason haul of honors is part of a banner year for the SaberCats, who went 12-1 and dominated the last postseason award rush, copping three of the top five honors given by local media. Campbell was named Coach of the Year on the All-Area team, Daniel Enriquez took All-Purpose Player of the Year, and Nate Garcia was honored as Offensive Player of the Year.

On the All-Area first team, the city claimed six offensive spots, including three linemen: Jayden Borjas and Julio Cuello of Vela plus Oscar Juarez of EHS. Two runners, EHS’s Hearlin Benavides and North’s Cristian Flores, joined Vela’s Garza on the team, which is selected from a pool of players from the Mid Valley on east to Roma. Defensively, linebacker Luis Gutierrez and safety Nick Enriquez of the Sabes made the first team.

Vela receiver Justin Cantu was a second team offensive pick while on D there were two city selections, Vela defensive lineman Tim Ellington and punter Raymond Quintanilla of EHS.

Traditionally, those kids who win superlatives such as Player of the Year are not eligible for All-Area first or second team, the reasoning being that doing so allows the media to spread the wealth around to more players.