Youth has served Refugio well during playoffs
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Class 2A, Division II Quarterfinal
East Bernard vs. Refugio
7:30 p.m. Friday, Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos
REFUGIO - Jason Washington's first catch went for 36 yards and led to a Lexington touchdown.
Refugio coach Jason Herring put sophomore Tyler Castellano in man coverage on Washington after the reception and the all-state receiver did not catch another pass until the fourth quarter when the Bobcats held a 35-14 lead in the Class 2A, Division II regional playoff game.
"Coach had been telling me he was fast and quick and I tried my best to stick with him," Castellano said. "From last year, I learned a lot watching all the players. I just zoned out and focused on covering him and trying not to get beat and just doing my best."
Herring's faith in Castellano was rewarded in a 49-21 win and it spoke volumes about the Refugio coach's willingness to put underclassmen in key roles.
"If a kid is the best at his position, it doesn't matter who he is, doesn't matter who his parents are and it doesn't matter what grade he's in," Herring said. "If he can help this football team win and he's the best at his position, he's going to play provided he is physically able to handle it."
Louie Whetsel was a key contributor on last year's state championship team as a sophomore and he's played an important role at receiver, running back and in the secondary as a junior as Refugio (12-0) prepares for Friday's quarterfinal game against East Bernard (12-0) at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos.
"I wanted to be part of the team 100 percent," Whetsel said. "I knew I had to respect the juniors and the seniors around me. I wanted to do everything I can to do my part and not be the one to mess up."
Junior defensive back J.B. Brown leads the Bobcats with four interceptions this season.
He attributes the strides he's made to the experience he gained playing as a sophomore.
"I was nervous my first game," Brown said. "When I stepped on the field, I felt like I moved slow and I just caught up with the speed of the game."
Herring's most important decision last season was to start Travis Quintanilla, a sophomore, at quarterback.
Quintanilla had played sparingly as a freshman, but he went on to pass for 3,945 yards and 53 touchdowns to become the Class 2A Player of the Year.
"You've got to bring them along slowly," Herring said. "I thought we had a good enough team to win it, but I was scared to death to turn the reins over to the Pup - that's what I called Travis.
"Everybody gets carried away with him being player of the year and all that stuff he did. But the single greatest thing Travis accomplished last year was mentally and emotionally handling being the starting quarterback for Refugio."
Quintanilla, who has passed for 3,687 yards and 55 touchdowns as a junior, appreciates the support he got from Herring.
"You really have to mature a lot and grow up and take some adversity," Quintanilla said. "You know you're going to get chewed out by him because that's how coach Herring is. He's not going to just go with seniors and because you're a senior you're going to start. He's going to put the best kids who will play their hearts out and with that look where we are now."
Refugio needs three wins to repeat as state champions and the younger players are determined to repay the faith their coach has in them.
"He expects a lot from you," Brown said. "He wants you to step up and take control. You'll play, but you won't start until you're ready."
NOTES• Refugio will be the home team.
• Tickets are $4 for students and $7 for general admission. All tickets at the gate will be $7.