By MIKE HOLDER
Coaches, players, and fans from all over the state have anticipated the first Friday of Texas high school football.
Westwood is no exception having started those preparations last November after end of the 2012 season.
The Panthers will travel to Mineola to play the Yellowjackets who finished 4-6 in district 15-3A this past season. Mineola will be led by senior Rhett Self who rushed for 700 yards this past season and is expected to carry a big load for Mineola throughout the season. Self is one of seven returning offensive starters with five returning on the defensive side. The Yellowjackets main concerns coming into this season are finding a quarterback and depth on both sides of the ball. Even with this, Westwood coach Roger Mays said he feels confident.
“Mineola is going to be a real good test for us coming out early,” Mays said. “From what we’ve seen from them, they’re a very hard-nosed football team. They take pride in their offensive and defensive fronts. They have some big, strong kids. I feel real good about what we’re going to see out of them. They’re not as athletic as what we’ve been facing in the scrimmages, which is not to take anything away from them, but they just don’t have that breakaway speed that has hurt us the past couple of weeks.”
Westwood finished the 2012 year with a 3-7 record in district 11-3A division 1 and returns this year with four offensive starters and five on the defensive side for the upcoming season. Westwood looks to find its own identity on offense with heavy losses in the skill positions, and Mays said it will start on the other side of the ball.
“I think our defense is a little bit ahead of where we are normally at this time of year,” Mays said. “Defense, I’ll have to say, is ahead of our offense right now. It sounds funny, but that is kind of pleasing to see. Your defense is what you’re going to count on in the crunch times, and our offense, I know that they’ll come around.
“With what we run in the Wing-T offense and as they gel together, we’ll get better week to week. When the offense catches back up, I think we’ll be a very well-rounded team.”
Mays said he and his staff are extremely excited about this season. Westwood has had two scrimmages beginning with San Augustine in the first week and followed by a three team scrimmage which included Corrigan-Camden and Alto. These scrimmages can answer many questions about personnel and style of offense and defense. But by no means do they solve all answers and usually bring up a lot more questions. One spot that Mays said he is looking to this week, after watching scrimmages, is on the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m putting pressure on our offensive line this week,” Mays said. “Our skill players, those kids are performing very well this week as far as the mental factor goes. The offensive line, they know what they’re doing, it’s just a matter of getting it done. We have three sophomores starting on the offensive line, so I’m putting a lot of pressure on them to step up and perform.
“They have to realize it’s a lot different than JV, and I think they’ll learn that right away this week. Mineola has a great defensive front and linebacking core, so the pressure will be on the offensive line to step up and protect those skill players.”
The questions with any season are numerous for all coaches on every level, and Westwood has its share to be answered beginning this Friday at 7:30 pm in Mineola.