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FOOTBALL 2011 PREVIEW: Goliad seeks to improve after struggling in 2010

Aug. 12, 2011 at 3:12 a.m.

Quarterback Dalton Sturm avoids a stop from a junior varsity player during a drill during practice Thursday night at Goliad High School. The team will play a scrimmage against St. Joseph High School Saturday.  ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

GOLIAD - With a full off-season together, things may be looking up in Tiger territory.

Head coach Mark Cunningham knows his team may not win every game, but the second-year Goliad coach knows his team will give everything they have on Friday nights because "they understand what the expectations are."

The hunger to improve upon a 2-8 season was evident even in a water break as one player asked Cunningham the specifics of his responsibilities in a Cover 2 defense. When players are not doing what they are supposed to the coaches are not their to reprimand them - someone in blue and white already has.

Goliad returns 12 starters, including junior linebacker Jeremy Pena, defensive back Robert Haynes and two-way players like wide receiver/free safety Ryan Berger and center/defensive end Nathan Gruetzmacher. With a least eight people expected to play both ways, depth will be a key issue.

Playoff possibilities:

Goliad has won three games the last two seasons, but there may be a reason for optimism. The Tigers last playoff appearance, in 2008, was preceded by a pair of eight loss seasons.

"This year's team, they have been through an offseason with a coaching staff in place," Cunningham said. "They understand what the expectations are."

Why should Goliad fans be excited?

"You are going to see a bunch of kids playing really hard," Cunningham said. "We graduated a bunch of seniors last year, but these kids are young, they are hungry and they feel like they are going to make a difference this year. We are going to go out and be as competitive as we can and then let the chips fall where they may. Wins or losses, we are going to play hard and make Goliad proud of what their kids are doing on the field."

Biggest question mark

"Our size is always going to be the question," Cunningham said of the 33 boys on the varsity. "Injuries are going to be key. We can't afford to have a lot of injuries, if that occurs, we are young behind young. We're not experience, behind experience."

Early in the season they will platoon players on both sides of the football, but the Tigers head into district play, many of their players might not come off the field too much.

"We're in a district with good football teams," Cunningham said. "Hopefully, we are praying, we will go into the district as healthy as we can. Those five games, we're hoping to get experience. We have two young quarterbacks (in Colby Berger and Dalton Stearns) and we have several positions where we are playing sophomores again. It's going to be very critical that they get game experience."

Berger and Stearns are athletic enough that the one who is not the quarterback will see the field one way or another.

Key to successful season

"We're going to have to get off early and win some games and establish some confidence," Cunningham said. "There has been a down cycle here, but I think the kids believe. They have worked hard in the off-season. If we can grab a couple wins, I think the first two or three games are critical."

Last year, Goliad started the season 2-2; however, its season spiraled down hill after throwing for more than 400 yards, but losing to Palacios 25-18 Sept. 24. The Tigers did not win another game after that, and the average margin of defeat was 36.4 points.

Biggest change from last season:

Cunningham, Berger and Gruetzmacher all said a full off-season was invaluable. They expect all that time together to pay off when they kickoff the season Aug. 26 at San Antonio Cole.

""I think it's very critical. I think the second year is about your staff developing relationships with your kids," Cunnignham said. "We're instilling our expectations, discipline what we will accept and what we won't accept. It was very, very important."

Biggest Game:

"I think they are all big," Cunningham said. "I don't see one big factor game. I think if we can win the first game and we win the second game. George West, who has a great football team probably the best team they've had in a number of years, if we can steal one there or play as hard as we can and get a win, that is going to be critical." I think these kids will never die anyway. I think they'll play as hard as they can regardless."



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