HARLINGEN — At the end of the 2015 high school football season, Brian Ricci walked off the field at NRG Stadium in Houston as the offensive coordinator of the Class 5A Division I state champion Richmond George Ranch Longhorns.
A few months later, he was hired as the new head coach for the Harlingen South Hawks.
On Monday, the Ricci era officially kicked off as the Hawks opened practice to begin the 2016 season.
And while this season may not end with the Hawks celebrating a Class 6A state crown, Ricci wants to make sure that his program will soon be competitive enough to at least compete for a district title and make consistently deep runs in the playoffs.
After Monday’s first practice, Ricci was pleased with what he saw.
“I was fortunate enough to get here before spring football and we had a good spring so the kids are somewhat familiar with what we’re doing, so this is somewhat of a refresher,” Ricci said.
“We’re working now to get them in shape and knock the summer off of them. They’re coming around and we’ve got a good bunch to work with.”
The Hawks had a pretty rough season in 2015, finishing 3-6 and missing out on the postseason for a second consecutive year.
However, the Hawks have several returning starters this time around, including offensive linemen Abel Villarreal and Sky Tatum as well as defensive end Brandon Bennett and linebacker Zach Fayyad.
Still, the Hawks will have to learn Ricci’s system quickly if they hope to compete against the likes of Harlingen High, San Benito, Los Fresnos, Weslaco High and Weslaco East.
Ricci’s system worked wonders for George Ranch. Under his offensive guidance, the Longhorns became a Houston-area power in a relatively short period of time. Last season, the team averaged 45.4 points per game en route to a 16-0 mark and a 56-0 state title game win over Lake Ridge.
The Hawks open the season at home on Aug. 25 against McAllen High. They then host PSJA High before concluding their non-district schedule at Edinburg North on Sept. 8.
The District 32-6A season begins on Sept. 23 with the Hawks taking on Harlingen High in Bird Bowl XXIV. The Green Birds have lost the last eight contests against their intracity rivals. The last time they beat the Cards was in 2007 when they won 21-7.