Victoria, Cuero open semi-pro football seasons with gridiron duel
By Albert Alvarado - firstname.lastname@example.org
April 29, 2010 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 28, 2010 at 11:29 p.m.
For years high school football players in Victoria and Cuero have heard about, read about and watched each other's gridiron exploits. They never had a chance to compete against each other because the schools are in different classifications.
The chance comes Saturday at 6:30 p.m. as the Cuero Gobblers and the Victoria Red Rage of the South Texas Amateur Football open the season with a divisional match-up at Patti Welder Stadium in Victoria.
"They're the big city in this area, we're the little town," said Gobbler offensive coordinator James Washington about his experience playing for Cuero High. "We've always wanted to play them. We've always wanted to get at them and prove we're just as good as anybody in the area."
STAF is in its second year of existence and added the Red Rage and Gobblers as expansion teams, increasing the number of teams in the league to 16.
Next season STAF plans to add teams in San Angelo, Gatesville, Killeen and Universal City.
Former Memorial High linebacker Dezmond Sweet is excited about starting the 2010 season, especially against a team that is a natural geographic rival.
"Cuero is so close and everybody is saying how good Cuero is" Sweet said. "It's just more excitement for us."
Sweet is one of the youngest members of the Red Rage. He played his final game for the Vipers this fall and will walk with the final Memorial graduating class this June.
Gobbler free safety/full back Kent Grant last played for Cuero high in 1999 and feels it's appropriate the Gobblers and Red Rage open the season against each other.
"I believe we always had enough talent to beat Victoria, but we never got a chance to prove ourselves," Grant said.
Cuero quarterback Brandon Mays said that when he played for Cuero High he and his teammates used to joke about the Victoria schools ducking Cuero in non-district games.
"We used to always say they were a little scared to play a 3A school," Mays said. "It's going to be fun, I'm ready to play against a good Red Rage team. I'm just excited about the Highway 87 showdown."
There is one player on the Red Rage roster most of Gobblers will be familiar with, former Palacios Shark running back Henry Solis.
Despite not playing his high school ball in either city, it didn't take long for Solis to realize how these two football communities felt about each other.
"I didn't know Cuero and Victoria had as much hate as they do," Solis said. "It makes things interesting. Cuero versus Vic is kind of like Palacios versus Tidehaven - it makes it that much fun."
While his teammates look forward to their first shot at Cuero, Solis wants retribution. As a senior the Old Spice Red Zone Player of the Year ran for 2,575 yards and 40 touchdowns helping Palacios make the playoffs for the first time in 43 years. The Sharks improbable playoff run ended in the 3A state quarterfinals as Cuero ousted Palacios 42-14.
"I'm trying to come out here and trying to get back at Cuero," Solis said.
Washington is quick to remind his players this is just the first game on the schedule. The Red Rage and Gobblers have 10 regular season games sandwiched between their home and home divisional series.
"There's a lot of hype about this game. You've got to let them know this is not the only game of the season," Washington said.
Football fans in Cuero have been anticipating this game as much as the players, and Grant knows it.
"I'm trying to do it for the town of Cuero and all the fans we have," Grant said. "It adds a lot because of the competition and the comparisons that Victoria and Cuero have. Having not played each other before I believe it adds a lot the game. There's going to be a lot of people watching and a lot of people counting on us."
Mays will have fans in the stands from both cities as some of his co-workers from the Victoria County Sherriff's Department will be in stands Saturday pulling for Mays.
Mays will play Saturday with a heavy heart. For the first time, he'll play a game without his brother Isaac Gamez watching him. Mays said Gamez helped him prepare for games when he was in high school.
Gamez was shot and killed following a fight in west Cuero last February.
"With my brother Ike behind me, I'm planning to play one of the best games of my life and I'm dedicating this game to him," Mays said.
Although most of these players haven't played an organized football game in years, Solis said time has given him more knowledge of the game and he is confident going into Saturday's game.
"I expect to score and win," he said.