The Hanna Golden Eagles had a 2018 to remember, capturing an undefeated District 32-6A title and advancing to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in program history.
While the Eagles are ready for more success this season, they are hardly the same team from one year ago.
Still, Hanna coach Mark Guess said that despite big losses on both sides of the ball, members of the team came into the first week of practice eager to leave their own mark on the program.
“We have a whole new face of football here after losing 10 players on defense and eight on offense,” said Guess, who is in his fourth season as Hanna’s coach. “The team looks completely different for the most part, but the expectations remain the same — we want to win a district championship. The kids that showed up, and that have been here, gave up their summer and worked hard during the spring and in the offseason. They’ve done the things that we’ve asked them to do.”
The Golden Eagles will be a junior-heavy team this season, reminiscent of the 2017 squad that took the field.
That team broke a seven-year playoff drought, though Guess believes this season’s group might be further along than the one from two seasons ago with the program’s culture and staff being in place for some time now.
“We think physically, they’re a little bit ahead of the sophomores and juniors from two years ago because I only had one offseason with them,” Guess said. “Some of these guys we’ve had a couple of offseasons with now, so they’ve been able to put on the muscle we’ve asked them to put on and just get bigger, faster and stronger. The rest of it is just teaching them where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there, and trying to figure out who we want to put in what spots and how to put our best 11 on the field.”
Though Hanna looks depleted and young, they bring back two very important senior leaders on each side of the ball in the form of quarterback Victor Campos and defensive tackle Brandon Esteves.
For Esteves, the first few days have been key in the development of the younger players coming into the varsity system.
“This week has been very important,” said Esteves, who was an all-district, All-Metro and Associated Press All-State first-team selection one year ago. “We’ve gotten all the new guys in here and have needed them to grow up a little faster than we wanted to though the summer. Thankfully, a lot of them have been showing up. It’s been a lot of fresh, young faces and we’ve been becoming a team as we go.”
For Campos, getting back out on the field has been refreshing since walking off of it last December after an impressive showing despite a disappointing one-point loss to San Antonio Brandeis.
The senior signal caller said he has embraced becoming the leader of a young offense.
“It feels really good, just working with all the young guys on the team and on our offense,” Campos said. “It feels good to be a leader out there during my senior year. As long as I can get them to be better, I’ll feel good.”
So far, getting the offense to mesh has gone well, with the younger players coming in ready to absorb what coaches and veterans have to teach.
“(Having a lot of new players) is nothing different, but we just have to go out there every day and work hard, focus on each other and work as a team to get better every day,” Campos said. “A lot of those young guys on our team work really hard, so that’s not a problem. I feel we have the ability to be really good really fast with a lot of hard workers.”
The task of taking a young team and molding it into a winning group is a tough one, but after a positive first week of practice, Hanna expects to do just that and more.
“(Those young players) are battling for spots,” Guess said. “They’ve been paying attention, hustling and really putting forth their best effort. They want to be one of those 11 out on the field. I can’t complain this week with the effort. We think we’re going to get these kids ready and hopefully battle for a district championship.”