Across the state of Texas, the state’s favorite pastime – high school football – made its triumphant return as the thousands of public-school squads officially started their 2019 season.
“It’s still exciting,” said Pettus coach Michael Enriquez, who enters his fourth season at the helm in Pettus and his 21st season overall as a prep football coach.
“The night before, there’s no sleep and you’re triple- and quadruple-checking stuff. My wife knows; she doesn’t even stay in the room, because I’m up all night.
“I look forward to this day.”
Enriquez’s Eagles were the second team in Bee County to hit the field.
The early-bird honors went to the Skidmore-Tynan Bobcats, who took the field at 7 a.m. for their first practice.
Bobcat head coach John Livas, like Enriquez, enters his 21st season as a prep football coach.
“Other than I’m getting fatter and older, I don’t know,” he joked when asked if the first day is still felt the same in Year 21 as it did in Year 1.
“But, you know, you’ve still got the butterflies.
“The night before, it’s the nerves. Do you have everything? Are you ready? You can’t sleep and then you wake up early.
“It still feels the same 21 years later,” said Livas, who is the dean of the Bee County coaches as he enters his seventh season at the helm of the county’s southernmost high school.
Livas and his retooled staff – which features two new faces this year – spent most of the first day doing about the only thing you really can do as a coach during the mandatory non-contact acclimation days, or the “Underwear Olympics,” as some coaches call it.
“It’s a lot of teaching the first day,” Livas said. “We’ve got some kids who are behind, so we’ve got to catch them up. We don’t want to rush anything.
“It’s a lot of teaching and a lot of technique, a lot of fundamentals.”
Enriquez – who was battling a stomach bug that hit him Sunday night – and the Eagles took the field at 7:30 a.m.
With less than 30 kids on the team this year, the early-season conditioning in the heat plays a vital role in getting the Eagles ready for the year.
“It’s very big. We have what we have. Our numbers are a little lower than normal,” said Enriquez. “But, our kids know, they won’t ever come off the field. ... They know they’ve got to get in shape.
“We pride ourselves on being able to play in that fourth quarter.”
Later in the day, as the sun started to sag in the sky and some ominous clouds started to roll in, the second Chris Soza era of Beeville football began at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Trojans took the field at 4:30 p.m. for the first practice of their 2019 season.
“The first day of practice is always exciting,” said Soza, who last led Beeville out of the locker room on North Adams Street and onto the field at the Vet in 2009.
“... Our kids have a great attitude. They worked hard this summer.”
Soza welcomed 108 players on the first day.
“It’s a good number. Not too bad,” he said.
Soza, like Livas and Enriquez, said it still felt the same to step onto the practice field for another year.
“They’re all special,” he said. “Every year, those seniors especially, they don’t have another year, this is it. You want them to be successful and have great memories because they are going to remember their senior year.”
The community clamored for a return to the old guard with Soza, and then heaped sky-high expectations onto the returning mentor.
He’s welcoming all of it, though.
“The anticipation is high. The expectations are going to be high,” he said Monday. “The community is excited. That’s what football does for a community.
“... We’ll keep working hard and see what happens.”