VICTORIA EAST PREVIEW: Titans set to entrench football tradition in Victoria
By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
Aug. 25, 2011 at 3:25 a.m.
The possibility of people buzzing about Calhoun and Victoria West being the best football teams in District 30-4A does not bother Mickey Finley.
If anything, he and the rest of the coaches at Victoria East use such predictions as motivation.
"Our expectations are very high," Finley said. "Even though it was one year, we don't look at (the Memorial history.) We have one year and to hold up those standards we'll have to work hard."
The Titans may have surprised a few people with an 11-2 season in 2010 - the first time in eight years a public high school in Victoria had a winning record - but players and coaches believe that season set the foundation not just for winning, but advancing further in the playoffs this year.
Though East hung half a hundred on five teams last year, its focus will be on defense. Teams that play December football usually do not concede 24.3 points per game, like the Titans did in 2010, so there is a concerted effort to shore up that side of the football.
"We're expecting a lot out of ourselves this year, especially after last year," said senior defensive end Lorenzo Vega. "We're going to practice our hardest every day and dominate everyone. During practice, we go 100 percent every play and we never stop, and we will never quit. We will not stop until we get to state."
Every team may dream of winning a state title, but with Alex Hollinsworth becoming the defensive coordinator and a switch to a 3-4 defense, those chances may be more realistic than in the past. The new defensive system is geared toward getting more speed on the field to counter the spread and other high-octane offenses East may face.
East returns 10 players, including district defensive player of the year Nic Wallace, wide receiver/safety Justin Kalinowski, and Vega. Those three might be listed at multiple positions, but Finley's hope is that a talented sophomore class will step up so the season will not be as taxing.
At 6-feet-5 and 290 pounds, sophomore Moe Pullen may have the perfect size and name for an offensive guard. Jace Balderaz, Deondric Lofton and Antone Franklin are others who will start the season on the varsity and have a chance to win starting spots.
An Aug. 5 arrest of projected outside linebacker Jefferson Hill on murder charges provided an opportunity for Henry Creager and Jesse Gallegos to fill that void. Finley said both seniors are, over 6-feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and are physical presences in the middle of the defense.
The addition of first-year starters Pullen, Balderaz and junior Trevor Austin to the offensive line is proof just how young East will be this year at a multitude of positions. However, all three have talent, it's about allowing that talent to flourish.
"We are going to look impressive," Finley said. "We are going to have some big ol' kids. We have some kids who have the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. If you can dominate the line of scrimmage you can win football games. We have the ability to do that, now we just have to get the technique to go with that."
Wallace and junior Brandon Salazar are competing for the quarterback position. The former has completely recovered from tearing his ACL in November.
"I can remember when I first put on my shoulder pads in high school," Wallace said. "Now, I'm a senior and it's surreal. I can't wait to knock some people out and throw some passes."
Wallace is one of many that entered fall practice assured of substantial playing time. Finley said the previous three weeks have allowed East coaches to figure out who is playing where.
Regardless of who takes the field Friday at J. Lewis Boggus Stadium in Harlingen, the Titans are a confident and close bunch ready to prove 2010 was no fluke.
"We are pretty close," Vega said. "We hang out a lot outside of football - we're almost like family. We hang out every day. We're all friends and we're together a lot. That helps us on the field because we know each other and we can trust them. That bond is great."
Coach: Mickey Finley
Years at current school: 2
Record at current school: 11-2
Years as head coach: 34
Overall record: 214-154-6
Last year's record: 11-2, 5-0 district
Last playoff appearance: 2010, Division I regional
Returning starters: OT/DE Lorenzo Vega, OT Michael Ponton, RB Johnathan Garner, QB/TE/LB Nic Wallace, WR/FS Justin Kalinowski, DE Ty'ree Lewis, LB Gustavo Delos Santos.