SAN BENITO — Wake up! Wake up! WAAAAAAAKE UP!
The two-word command echoed loudly throughout Bobby Morrow Stadium, which was only partially lit beneath a still-dark, pre-dawn sky Monday morning.
“Wake up, boys! It’s the beginning of a new season. Time to get to work,” barked one San Benito football coach to a group of players huddled up near one of the stadium’s end zones.
“Yes sir,” the group shouted back in a surprisingly chipper tone, considering how early it was.
“It all begins right here, right now,” shouted another coach. “It’s time, so WAKE UP!”
And with that, the Greyhounds officially began two-a-days in preparation for the 2016 season.
Much is expected from these ’Hounds since the football program has found much success under third-year head coach Dan Gomez.
Since taking over in 2014, Gomez has led the ’Hounds to a share of two straight district titles, guided the program to back-to-back playoff appearances, including a run into the third round last year, and, maybe more importantly, has found a way to beat Harlingen High in two straight Battles of the Arroyo – something that hadn’t been done since 2006 and 2007.
But Gomez isn’t the type of man to rest on his laurels and after nearly 2½ hours of intense practice from his players Monday, Gomez was not pleased with what he saw. Not yet, anyway.
“We’ve got to get better tomorrow and push, push, push because those are the (high) expectations we are going to put on the kids, and we expect the kids to rise to the occasion, to meet those expectation and to push forward,” he said.
Despite the high expectations, the fact remains that the ’Hounds lost a ton of talent to graduation, especially on offense where only one starter (OL Julio Pecina) returns from a team that went 10-3 a season ago.
To make matters even more difficult, the ’Hounds now find themselves in a new-look District 32-6A that was bolstered by the addition of Weslaco High and Weslaco East, which both made the playoffs in 2015.
But Gomez isn’t worried about who’s no longer on the team because he fully expects this year’s bunch to step and take over where last year’s group left off.
Gomez also doesn’t worry about the competition his team will face this season because for him and his staff, the season is about more than just wins and loses.
“For us, the reason we do this is to make sure that these kids become better men, and when they’re done playing football here they can go out of high school and do things to better themselves and better their families.
“Wins will come and we’ll take them, but our main priority is to turn these boys into young men.”
The Greyhounds open the 2016 season at Laredo United on Aug. 25 then host San Antonio East Central on Sept. 2 before wrapping up non-district play against McAllen Memorial at home on Sept. 9.
Their first district contest is at Los Fresnos on Sept. 23 and the ’Hounds conclude the regular season at Harlingen High on Nov. 4.