After a tremendous 12-1 football season in his debut of 2017, Coach John Campbell is ready for the encore and is pleased about the way his SaberCats have performed so far in spring.
“Rewind to last year and compare it with this one, the difference is familiarity,” he explained. “We’re way ahead of schedule compared to last time when everything was new, the coach, system, everything. So we’re excited about what has gone on so far this spring.”
The coach says that with an offseason behind them, the Sabes are much better off than a year ago.
“The level of familiarity is there, these guys know what we demand and they’re doing that,” he said. “We’ve got some questions of course, but that’s what the spring is for, ironing out the depth chart, seeing who’s going to be competing for what. And I think that the potential answers to our questions are going to be good.”
With the majority of the spots more or less set, the club will spend the last two weeks of spring ball working partially on second unit stuff.
“You always need to have as many guys contributing on a 60-man roster as you can get,” he explained. “That means seeing who are the young guys who will be able to come in and play five to 15 snaps in the fall. We’ve got a lot of good young kids who are getting a chance to prove themselves right now.”
EYEBALLING THE ROSTER
Watching the Vela offensive line group reminds one of a safari in Africa; just when you think you’ve seen the biggest buck antelope, another, superior one comes striding along.
With enormous bookend tackles and a guard weighing in at 260, the SaberCats are in good shape, with senior-to-be tackle Jayden Borjas the best of what looks to be an excellent lot. But the second team has some real horse as well, including a kid who goes 6-5 already, and one imagines that several of the reserve youngsters could start for many schools around the Valley.
It is said that a great line makes decent backs look way better. But what if there are great backs to go with that great line? Well, great.
In transfer Christian Flores, Campbell has a speedy cutter who can go the distance at any moment, a guy who has rushed for more than 2,000 career yards heading into his senior season. But don’t forget about burly but lithe Aaron Alvarez, or the A Train (18 TD last year) will make you pay! To this potent tandem of mercury and uranium, add slasher Kevin McKinney, who some say is ready to explode in 2018, and the arsenal is complete: the Sabes are going to have a formidable running game in the fall. And as with the line, the second group of runners is young but physically impressive.
Though 64-catch provider Justin Cantu is out for the spring after knee surgery, he should be fine come the season. Right now, that leaves Aziel Garcia and new face (sort of) Daniel Enriquez to work with new quarterback A.J. Sotelo, and the replacement for the great Nate Garcia shows a strong and accurate arm in the early going. Enriquez, switching over from defense where he intercepted six passes and scored five times via returns, has tremendous hands and has but to learn the routes before he becomes equally dynamic on the offensive side of the ball.
And the defense promises to be a strong unit in 2018, top to bottom. Though tackle Sergio Carrizales and corner Bryan Farias are part of the walking wounded right now, both should be stalwart contributors once again. Carrizales will man the middle along with Brandon Beebe, with the coaches auditioning a number of possibles at end, including playmaker Eddie Salinas.
The LB crew is set with plugger Luis Gutierrez and tackling machine Ian Ochoa inside, while outside, combo guy Richard Campos and active Justice Rivera are tough, experienced kids.
An area of emphasis is the back four, with Enriquez expected to see some snaps there and a series of newcomers seeking secondary jobs.
SABES STILL CRANKING IN BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
The banner season continues on the diamond for Vela, as the SaberCats defeated Eagle Pass twice last week to reach the regional quarterfinals for the second time as a program. The Sabes (27-4) won 5-3 and 8-4, and will now take on a Los Fresnos team that knocked North out in bi-district and then came back from a one-game deficit to get past Mission twice Saturday. The Falcons, champs of 32-6A, are 26-9 for the year.
Senior Aaron Galvan, who signed with UTRGV recently, pitched the win in Game Two and also went 3 for 4. Teammate Nico Rodriguez went 4 for 8 against Eagle Pass and saved both games; he hurled 2.2 innings and struck out eight, which is everyone who made out, by the way. Rodriguez has compiled 63 K’s in 34 innings. Junior Eric Martinez drove in seven runs and now has 40 RBI this year.
Vela has set a record for wins this season and reaches the third round for the second time in three campaigns. In 2016 the Sabes went as a 5A, beating Donna North and Victoria East before falling to traditional power Calallen in the quarters. The winner of the Vela-Los Fresnos series will take on the victor in the matchup pitting SA Madison and city rival Churchill.