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East looks to reclaim perch atop 30-4A

Aug. 30, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.

The Victoria East Titans are having to get used to a much more tighter-run ship under new coach Roland Gonzalez, who comes to Victoria after four  years at Houston Cy-Springs.

2011 VICTORIA EAST SEASON AT-A-GLANCE

RECORD: 7-5 (4-1 District 30-4A), second in district, area round finalist in 4A, D-I playoffs

PASSING LEADER: Nic Wallace, 44-88, 841 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTsRUSHING LEADER: Johnathan Garner, 234 carries, 1,851 yards 23 touchdowns RECEIVING LEADERS: Justin Kalinowski, 28 catches, 444 yards, five touchdownsTACKLES: Justin Kalinowski 156, Chris Clark 147

SACKS: Three tied with 3.0 sacks (Lorenzo Vega, Adam Salgado, Seth Christian)

Dedication is the buzz word circling around the Victoria East football program.

Whether it's to the program, to the weight room, or to teammates, dedication is the term bandied about by a new-look Titans bunch as they head toward the 2012 season.

With a new coach, a new offense, a new defense, and many more new faces the Titan togetherness might be all they have on the eve of the season.

"Dedication and hard work get you places," said senior quarterback Cameron Schultz. "I'm looking to go big somewhere. I want to show my linemen and show my starters that I have the dedication (and) have what it takes to be the starter."

Though Schultz is the Titans' top returning passer, completing five of 16 passes for 46 yards last year, he will likely split snaps with Mark Cavazos in the East backfield. Cavazos missed most of last season with a knee injury, but said during spring drills he's eager to take the field again.

Don't be surprised if both are on the field at the same time in a high-tempo offense from first-year head coach Roland Gonzalez.

East will again be in the shotgun in the offense instilled by new offensive coordinator Roger Gonzales, but it may throw the football more this year. In two years under Mickey Finley the Titans threw the football just under 30 percent of the time. When Roland Gonzalez was the head coach at Houston Cypress-Springs his Panthers threw the football 39.8 percent of the time.

"It's going to be an exciting style of offense that we are going to put up on the field," Gonzalez said. "We hope it will be entertaining to watch."

A senior-laden group finished 7-5 and second in District 30-4A a year ago. Such losses to graduation meant the Titans must replace its top passer, rusher, receiver and tackler. They even have to replace an All-District punter.

Deondric Lofton averaged more than 17 yards per catch in his sophomore season, while senior Charles Diggs will take over for Johnathan Garner at running back.

Defensively, safety Chris Clark produced 147 tackles in 12 games. Linebacker Seth Christian returns after a 2011 season where he had 70 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

Gonzalez said Jace Mitchell and Albert Longoria will also be key cogs in the front end of the Titans 4-3 defense this fall.

"Albert is a very athletic and tenacious football player," Gonzalez said. "He's very intelligent, and he has a great nose for the ball."

Such experience defensively might be needed, as the Titans face a physical Gonzales team in their season opener, and two other playoff teams in non-district play. The Titans must also navigate a new district that features perennial powerhouse Calallen.

"I have to lead by example. I have to show the younger guys the expectations from the coaches and the fans," said left tackle Trevor Austin, who will enter his third year as a starter. "They expect us to win. We have to win for them."

Austin, recalling the sting of the 49-36 area playoff loss to Weslaco East, last year said it hurts to lose, especially when he and his teammates have put so much effort into football.

Mistakes at inopportune times thwarted the Titans in four of their five losses last year. In a 49-36 playoff loss to Weslaco East it was a late touchdown before the half that sapped momentum. In losses to Calallen, San Antonio East Central and Corpus Christi King, East turned the ball over a combined eight times.

Throughout the offseason, Gonzalez has stressed success comes at a price. To date, the first-year head coach said his players have bought into the foundations he, Gonzales and new defensive coordinator Oscar Lujan have instilled.

"Discipline is one of the principles of our philosophy," Gonzalez said. "We hold our kids to a high standard in everything they do. That will translate to the football field."

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