Raymondville eager to put rough 2016 season in rearview mirror

RAYMONDVILLE — Just one week into the 2017 high school football preseason and there’s no hiding it: The excitement of football is back in Raymondville.

After battling through adversity with a young squad last season, the Bearkats return a large contingency of players with invaluable experience for the upcoming campaign.

“I like the attitude and I like the fact that we are all coming to practice, and that we’re all showing up,” said Raymondville head coach Frank Cantu. “We had a good summer and we put in the work, and now we want to see the results of that hard work.”

This year the Kats return a whopping 15 players back from last season; nine on defense and six on offense.

“Last year we started a lot of sophomores and this year all those guys are juniors so we have a lot of guys with experience on them,” said Cantu. “I feel good about that but we just want to stay healthy because at one point last year we lost both of our linebackers and that hurt us. But at the end of the day we’re looking good and we’re healthy. We’re excited about what we have coming into the year.”

However, while there may be excitement at practice, the Bearkats are also playing with a chip on their shoulders. After finishing a disappointing 3-8 overall and 2-3 in District 16-4A Division II last season, the team is fueled by past failures.

“Of all the years that I’ve been here, this has been the hardest working group we’ve had,” said Raymondville defensive end Darian Cortez. “These guys don’t slack at all. We’re excited about being excited for the new season.

“The past two years we’ve been predicted fourth in our district and we hate that. This year we’re doing everything we can to change it.”

The Bearkats get an opportunity to start the season on the right foot as they take on La Joya on Friday in their first scrimmage. Afterward, Raymondville takes on Brownsville Porter in its second scrimmage of the year before beginning the regular season against a tough La Feria squad on Sept. 1.

QB Daniel Gutierrez ready to lead Kats to new heights

Two seasons ago, the Raymondville Bearkats fan base were introduced to then-sophomore quarterback Daniel Gutierrez. A nibble QB who was light on his feet and could scramble out of the box to make something out of nothing.

Catapulted into the limelight following an unfortunate injury to starting QB Jacob Perez in a scrimmage game early in the season, Gutierrez came in and gave the Bearkat faithful a glimmer of hope and, more importantly, optimism.

That same optimism quickly turned into expectations following an exciting 55-45 victory over Brownsville St. Joseph’s high-powered offense. Gutierrez entered that game with zero varsity experience and left with 147 passing yards on 10 of 16 attempts with three touchdowns. And by the end of the night he also carried the ball 13 times for 90 yards rushing and a touchdown.

That year (2015) Gutierrez earned the district’s newcomer of the year award after passing for more than 1,000 yards while rushing for 365 yards on 88 carries.

The next season, Gutierrez followed it up with another standout performance after once again passing for more than 1,000 yards and almost doubling his previous rushing total with 680 yards. For his impressive showing, Gutierrez was named District 16-4A Offensive MVP.

This year, Gutierrez is a senior and if preseason holds any indication of the future, the once inexperienced QB that dazzled his fans as a sophomore is ready to give the Bearkats a season to remember.

“Daniel has been really good and he’s worked really hard,” said Raymondville head coach Frank Cantu. “He had a good 7on7 season and he has a good passing technique, and throws the ball really hard. We feel we can surround him with a few more people to throw to.

“We’re going to look to throw the ball a little bit more this season and opened the field up a bit more to give him a chance to shine.”