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September 5, 1996

Toranadoes' James joins Belew in head coaching debut Friday

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Staff Writer

Based on the results of the past two seasons, Pecos Eagle fans might be surprised to find out there will be two new head coaches hoping to turn their programs around starting Friday night, when the Pecos Eagles travel to Lamesa to face the Tornadoes in an 8 p.m. start.

Pecos opens their season for the fifth year in a row against Lamesa, with Mike Belew looking to come away with a victory in his head coaching debut. At the same time, Lamesa head coach Tim James will be seeking his first varsity win, after moving up from defensive coordinator to head coach over the summer, replacing Gary Yoder.

That's because despite a 27-12 win at home over Pecos two years ago, and a 42-0 clobbering of the Eagles last September, the Tors' record the past two seasons is the same as the Eagles' 5-15 mark.

Pecos failed to recover any of Lamesa's five fumbles last year, while special teams problems led directly to 28 of the Tors' 42 points. "I think in the first game or two especially, your special teams play a big part," said James, who saw Lamesa block two punts, one for a touchdown a year ago in Pecos.

That shouldn't happen again this time around, since Belew and his staff have been pointing the Eagles towards getting ready for Friday's game since the start of workouts a month ago.

That's meant little time to plan for scrimmage opponents Crane and Midland Greenwood, but Belew said Monday, "I've told the kids all along we're preparing for the first game. If we were further along in the program, we would have spent more time on our scrimmage opponents, but I feel where we are offensively and defensively, we definitely had to keep our focus on Lamesa."

While the Eagles have been altering both their offense and defense to match the one Belew and much of his staff worked with at Odessa Permian, James has made only minor changes on offense, while keeping the defense he ran for Yoder the past eight seasons.

"Basically, we're running out of the `I' formation more and less out of the wishbone," James said. "Defensively, we're doing the same as we've been doing."

"Crane luckily ran a `50' defense, so there's a definite carryover there," Belew said of the Cranes' defensive set. "Midland was a lot different. They ran a completely different scheme and I thought our kids did real well adjusting."

Offensively, Lamesa will still be trying to get the ball outside, where Greenwood had most of their success a week ago. Last year's backup quarterback, Jared Watson, takes over are starter, and he'll have tailback Kevin Larry to rely on as his main rusher. Larry had touchdown runs of 3- and 33-yards in last year's victory over Pecos, and wound up the year with 390 yards rushing and five touchdowns, to go along with 16 catches for 176 yards and another score.

"Kevin's looked pretty good so far. He's got good foot speed and does a good job running the ball for us," James said.

Lamesa has thrown the ball little against Pecos in either of their last two meetings, but Watson has aired it out more this year under James' modified offense. Eric Garcia caught a long touchdown pass in the Tors' 2-2 scrimmage tie against Big Spring, while returning tight end Eric Wrona had three touchdown catches last season.

Center Jesse Maholly is another returning starter, though James said, "Everywhere else we don't have much experience. We've got four or five positions where we're looking at underclassmen."

The Tors tied Big Spring 2-2 in their opening scrimmage, then lost 6-2 last week to Seminole. "We did pretty well against Big Spring, and then not so well against Seminole. We kind of struggled, but that's what scrimmages are for, to find out where your weaknesses are and correct them," James said.

Both the Eagles and Tors have starters bothered by twisted ankles. Pecos' Arnulfo Granado reinjured his last week at Greenwood, while Lamesa, Brian Gregory was hurt in the Tors' matchup with Seminole.
Before the varsity opens its 1996 season against Lamesa, the Eagles' freshman and junior varsity teams begin play tonight against the Tors.

The junior varsity will take on Lamesa starting at 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium, while Pecos' freshmen go to Lamesa for a 6 p.m. start. The teams split their openers a year ago to the Tors, with the freshmen winning by 30 while the JV lost by 22.

Both Eagle sub-varsity squads scored wins last Friday at Midland in scrimmage play. The JV blanked Greenwood, 2-0, while Pecos' split freshman squad notched a 4-1 win over the Rangers. The rest of Pecos' ninth graders tied Alpine in a scrimmage last Thursday, 1-1.

Pecos seeks turnaround in Seminole

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Time is starting to run short on the Pecos Eagles, as they try to straighten out the problems that have plagued them in the first two weeks of the 1996 volleyball season.

The 3-8 Eagles, coming off a pair of bad home losses to the Kermit Yellowjackets and Odessa Permian Panthers, will play their final tournament of the season on Friday and Saturday in Seminole.

Pecos lost 16-14, 5-15, 15-6 to Kermit, and 15-8, 15-11 to Permian, with the majority of the points allowed coming off unforced errors. Several times, mis-communication either allowed soft shots to fall to the court, or sent Eagle players crashing into each other trying to handle the ball.

"It's really not a complicated offense. We're just having a hard time understanding it," said Eagles' coach Nora Geron, who was also unhappy with the teams' apparent lack of concern following their third and fourth straight losses.

"We're coming home early, if we play like that in Seminole," Geron said, referring to a likely early exit from the strong field without an improved performance.

Pecos' pool round matches figure to be tough, but not impossible, to win. The Eagles open up with a 10:30 a.m. match against Alpine, whom the Eagles have two of their three victories against so far this season. Alpine also posted a win over Pecos, at the Ector County ISD Tournament on Aug. 23.

The Eagles downed Alpine at home, 15-10, 15-5, in their own tournament quarterfinals last Saturday, then lost to Midland Greenwood, 16-14, 15-10. The Rangerettes will again follow the Bucks on Friday, when Pecos and Greenwood meet in 2:30 p.m. pool round contest.

Pool play ends for the Eagles with a 4:30 p.m. match against the host Maidens. Seminole placed second in the Lubbock Tournament and have swept Lamesa, Midland High and Fort Stockton in the past 10 days, but were swept by Greenwood in the Cantaloupe Classic and ended up finishing sixth overall.

The other pools are made up on Lubbock Monterey, Kermit, Midland High and Lubbock Estacado; Odessa High, Amarillo River road, Lubbock Coronado and Vernon; and Crane, Midland Lee, Hereford and Lamesa. The top two finishers in each pool play in the quarterfinals Saturday at either 8:30 or 9:45 a.m., while the other two teams will have 9:30 or 11:30 a.m. matches Saturday in the consolation quarterfinals.

Pecos has two more triangular meets next week, before District 4-4A play opens in Andrews on Sept. 17 against the defending district champion Mustangs.

Belew looks to get system up and running (and passing)

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Staff Writer

Five years ago, the Odessa Permian Panthers defeated San Antonio Marshall, 27-14 in the 1991 Class 5A small school state championship game. It was the last of three state titles Mike Belew was a part of while an assistant coach at Permian, to go along with his one title while playing for the Panthers in the early 1970s.

Marshall, meanwhile, was coached by David Visentine. Five years before the `91 title game, he had been forced out as head coach at Andrews High School, after his Mustangs posted a 3-7 record, to go along with homecoming game losses two straight seasons to the Pecos Eagles.

Andrews' school board went out and spared no expense and brought in W.T. Stapler as Visentine's replacement. And in 1987, just two years after he led Sweetwater to the Class 4A state championship ... Stapler proceeded to go 2-7-1 with his new team.

But they had a winning record the following year and two seasons after that, and after Andrews' players had time to get Stapler's system down, the Mustangs won the District 4-4A title. They followed that up with two more post-season appearances in 1992 and 1993 before Stapler departed.

Now Belew is taking over a Pecos program that went 3-7 in 1995, and while he's certainly expecting way better than that 2-7-1 mark Stapler posted in his debut at Andrews, learning the system that has worked so well at Permian over the past three decades will not be an overnight thing for the Eagles.

"Basically, I feel good about what we've done so far," Belew said following Pecos' two preseason scrimmages. "We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we're on schedule."

The Eagles are switching from a 5-2 defense they've used for two decades to a 4-3 system this season, while the Permian offensive scheme is much more complex than what Pecos had been going with. As a result, only part of both will be in place on Friday, when the Eagles' open their 1996 season in Lamesa.

"It's time-consuming. You can't put in all of the offense and defense in four weeks. It takes time," Belew said. "I don't want to sacrifice execution for quantity.

"We could have put a lot more things in, but I don't think we would be able to execute them the way we should. We need to add those things to the offense and defense as we go along," he said.

With more audibles and multiple formations in the playbook this season, the Eagles' will have more options against whatever defense is being run. But Belew added, "Until we get the basic formations down and understand them at the beginning level, I don't think it makes much sense to go onto the next level."

"The kids have probably caught on quicker than I expected. It takes time, but right now they're on par with where we hoped to be, and I think they have the energy and the enthusiasm to learn whatever we teach them," he said. "From that standpoint, they've exceeded our expectations."

After 12 years as an assistant at Permian, Belew served in the same capacity the past two seasons at Class 5A schools in the San Antonio and Houston areas, so Pecos is his first non-5A experience since starting out in coaching at Denver City in 1979. Still, he said the set up in Pecos, with 39 players on the varsity, isn't much different that what he was used to at the larger schools.

"I'm pleased with the number of kids that have turned out. I think the numbers are excellent for this particular 4A situation," he said. "We still run our practices the same way we would in 5A, except we've had to adapt it a little bit for the drills.

"Sometimes we've had to combine out 2s and 9s (front line) and our linebackers to run the inside hole drills, when at Permian or in Houston we may have run the separate. But that's the only thing I can really say is different to this particular situation."

The numbers for Pecos, while not at the 5A level or that of some of the larger District 4-4A schools, is still better than in recent seasons, when the Eagles have had to struggle to suit up 30 players each Friday night. And a few who didn't play a season ago are expected to have major roles in the Eagles' attack.

Belew said juniors Eric Aguilar and Jason Abila would split time at quarterback. "Jason will probably start, but Eric is going to play some, and we may use Jason some at wide receiver," Belew said. Abila sat out last season, while Aguilar was pressed into service as Pecos' starter last season when Nufie Flores went down with a knee injury on a rain-soaked Lowery Field in Lubbock. He hit on 29 of 80 passes for 300 yards in eight-plus games, with three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Flores is back for his senior season, but has been moved out to wide receiver. He and Abila hooked up on a 46-yard completion two weeks ago against Crane.

"Nufie is going to be the starter, and Moses Martinez will also come in. I've got confidence in both of them" Belew said. "Eric Abila is our third wide out, and when we run a three wide out formation, he'll be in."

Martinez played mostly at wingback as a sophomore last season. He ran for 196 yards, but also caught three passes for 30 yards. Abila played varsity baseball and basketball as a junior last season, but is out for football for the first time in several years in 1996.

Although Martinez has moved outside this year, Pecos still has several returning players to go to at running back. Junior fullback Richard Gutierrez has fared the best so far, after rushing just 13 times for 60 yards last season. He'll split time with seniors Joseph Strain, who had 11 carries for 40 yards, and Arnulfo Granado, who has been plagued by an ankle injury in preseason, but ran for 464 yards last season.

Gutierrez and Strain were used mostly on defense last season. "They're two of our mainstays so they're going to rest some offensively. I don't think we can rest them on defense, but we'll move them in and out on offense," Belew said.

At tailback, Pecos will be looking to replace Wade Dodson, who ran for nearly 1,600 yards the past two seasons, and was second in the district in touchdowns and scoring last year with 12 TDs and 80 points. Belew said senior Ray Parada, junior Jason Aguilar and sophomore Mark Abila will split time there. Parada started at cornerback last season, while gaining 73 yards on 31 carries. Abila was a mid-season call-up at safety, can carried the ball just two times as a freshman, for 10 yards.

Another late-season call-up, junior Joseph Contreras, is expected to be the starting tight end for Pecos, splitting time with senior Chris Mata. Contreras saw most of his action at linebacker as a sophomore, while Mata, like Flores, will be going from a quarterback role to a receiver's spot this season. He had a 17-yard catch to set up Pecos' only score last week at Greenwood.

With only eight seniors on last year's squad, the Eagles have most of their starting linemen back from a year ago, though some of the positions may be different in 1996.

Belew said at tackle, "Ringo Gallego pretty much has the weakside spot nailed down," while at the strong guard spot, candidates include another senior, Didio Martinez, along with junior Jeremy Thomasson.

Thomasson also has worked some at tight guard, though right now, Belew said Jake Fowler figures to start. He saw action last week after being sidelined with a foot fracture, and was a starter last season, next to Martin Valenzuela on the offensive line.

Valenzuela is expected to start at strongside tackle next to Martinez. "He's definitely one of our best offensive lineman and I think he'll be one of the premiere offensive linemen in the district," Belew said. In the middle, Pecos gets back center Jorge Navarette, though the senior has been hampered by injuries in the preseason. Juniors Steve Harrison and Eric Barreno are the Eagles' other centers.

Barreno is also a candidate for one of the defensive end spots, while Belew said junior T.J. Huffman will be the likely starter on the other side. Gallego, who started at tackle last season, and junior Fernando Marta also have been working there.

With the change from a 5-2 to the 3-4 on defense, senior Hector Lozano saw his 1995 starting position at nose guard eliminated. He'll sift over to a tackle spot this season, where the Eagles also are trying out Thomasson, Granado and senior Ali Castillo.

Pecos will need one more linebacker than in the past under their new defensive scheme, and the Eagles' coaches have shifted their one returning all-district player, Strain, from defensive tackle to middle linebacker. "I think he's going to be one of the premiere linebackers in the area," Belew said, while Contreras and Gutierrez will handle the outside linebacking chores.

In the secondary Flores returns to the starting cornerback job he held as a sophomore, while Mark Abila and Moses Martinez return after finishing off last season at free safety and strong safety.

Belew said Jason Abila will start at the other cornerback spot, but won't be there all the time. "I want to give him some rest," Belew said, and the Eagles can also use Parada, one of last season's starters at cornerback. That group will also serve as the Eagles punt and kick returners this fall.

Dodson got banged around enough last season so that Gutierrez handled about half of Pecos' punts as a sophomore. He'll do the punting as well this year and will also handle the kicking, after hitting three extra points in place of Dodson in 1995. Belew said along with the regular centers, coaches have been using Jason Aguilar as a deep snapper in preseason practice.

Pecos' last winning season was 10 years ago a 7-3 mark in 1986. They stayed at .500 for six seasons, but after a 5-0 start in 1993, have gone 5-20 since then. This season, the Eagles face a district schedule that sends them on 210-mile trips to Sweetwater and San Angelo on consecutive weeks, after opening 4-4A play with a trip to Big Spring.

That gives Pecos a tough road ahead, especially in the month of October. But after seeing the Permian system work so well for years at the 5A level, and with the new three-team playoff format in Class 4A, Belew is optimistic that the Eagles' turnaround won't take as long as Stapler's effort did up in Andrews.

"I feel like we can achieve the high level of goals we've set, not only to make the playoffs, but to compete for the district title," the Eagles coach said.

Bears expecting to make life for District 8-A rivals grizzly

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Staff Writer

The center of power in District 8-A six man football has been steadily moving east over the past several seasons.

This fall, the Balmorhea Bears would like to pull it back a little bit to the west, while making their third straight appearance in the state six-man playoffs.

Fort Hancock dominated the district -- and the state -- in six man play for most of the late 1980s, winning five six-man titles between 1986 and 1991.
They finished second in the state to Panther Creek in 1992, but in 1993 -- their last season before going back up to 11-man football -- the Mustangs were dethroned by their Hudspeth County rivals, Dell City and Sierra Blanca. Dell City ended up going to the finals this time, also falling to Panther Creek, with the Vaqueros beating out Fort Hancock for second.

Two years ago, the center of power in the district moved to Balmorhea. The Bears, who had won just five games in their previous three seasons -- went undefeated through the regular season and reached the six-man semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Amherst.

The Bears were back in the playoffs last season, but the district title again went east, this time to Imperial, as the Buena Vista Longhorns took the season-ending showdown over the Bears to claim the 8-A six-man title.

Buena Vista and Grandfalls both appear to be strong again for 1996, while district newcomer Sanderson is a wild card as far as the playoff race goes, having dropped down from 11-man this year. But Balmorhea head coach Michael Barrandey feels this year's team could be as good as the 1994 squad, though this year's group will be dominated mostly by underclassmen, as opposed to `94's senior-laden squad.

"As far as two years ago, we're looking like we're right up there. We might not have the overall team speed we had tow years ago, but we're close," he said. "We've got some with 4.7 (second) speed (in the 40 yard dash), and we've got some with 4.6, but not as many."

The Bears were banged up for much of last year. Seniors John Roman and Junior Dutchover were hampered by injuries during the latter half of the season, and sophomore quarterback Zane Rhyne missed most of the district season with a knee injury.

But after losing out to Buena Vista for the district title, the Bears almost pulled off a major upset in the area round of the playoffs, losing to No. 3-ranked Lamesa-Klondike, 60-57, in a game that wasn't decided until an interception by the Cougars as time expired.

Barrandey was happy with the way 1995 ended, and he's happy with the way 1996 is starting.

"The key is we look like the way we were at the end of last year. The veterans are just clicking and we're running plays the same way we did when we finished last season," he said. "The kids remembered their plays and their blocking assignments and are really playing well."

Dutchover was named to the West squad on the all-state six man football team this summer, and he helped Barrandey and his coaching staff earn a victory for the West squad earlier this summer in Lubbock. Roman was an alternate selection to the West team, so the Bears do have a few key holes to fill.

But so far, through two scrimmages against Marathon and Dell City and an intrasquad game last Friday, Barrandey said things have looked good. "Melchor Avalos stepped up and filled the hole John left, and with Junior graduating, we've had three backs step up and fill in."

Debiase Mendoza had to fill in last season when Dutchover was hurt, and had several big games, including the Bears' victory over Grandfalls that clinched a return trip to the playoffs for Balmorhea. Barrandey said the junior will split time with sophomore Vincent Calderon, who transferred in from 11-man football in Van Horn during the off-season.

Two other sophomores, Arturo Miranda and Roger Lopez, will be the fullbacks in the tight offense. Miranda also saw extra playing time in key situations as a freshman last season thanks to the injuries to Balmorhea's backfield.

Rhyne will be back at quarterback this season, as will senior center Scott Clark and senior right end Ryan Steig, while Avalos takes over for Roman at left end. Clark and Mendoza were first team all-district picks in 1995, while Rhyne was a second team choice despite his injury.

Miranda and Steig were honorable mention choices on offense, but the Bears won't be sending the 6-foot-4, 315 pound Steig out on many passing routes -- he and Avalos will come out when the Bears are in their spread offense, in favor of junior Jeremiah Lozano at right end and sophomore Kriss Natividad at left end.

Rhyne will remain at quarterback in the spread, while Lopez will split time with Calderon at fullback, and Mendoza and Miranda will handle the passing options out of the deep back slot.

Defensively, most of the same group will see action as starters, Barrandey said. "At the tackles, we'll have Roger Lopez and Jeremiah Lozano, Scott Clark and Zane Rhyne will be my outside linebackers, Arturo Miranda is the middle linebacker and we'll have Debe (Mendoza) at safety."

Mendoza took first team all-district honors a year ago at that position. Clark and Miranda were second team picks at defensive end and Rhyne was honorable mention there, before all were moved to linebacker slots this season.

Balmorhea will have 20 players to work with this season, four more than a year ago, though the Bears won't be at full strength when the season opens at home against Marathon on Friday. Freshman Chris Cook is still recovering from an injury suffered during the off-season, while sophomore Travis Woodruff was hurt during practice, and Barrandey said he probably won't be back until the start of District 8-A six man play.
Balmorhea comes into the season ranked 11th in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's six-man preseason poll and 13th, according to The Huntress Report on six man football.

While the both the Avalanche-Journal poll and Texas Football magazine expect the Bears and Longhorns again to be the top two teams in the district, Huntress is picking the district's newest arrival, Sanderson, to be the Bears' biggest challenge.

No team has gone down to six-man football in recent years and done well right away -- the Bears struggled in their first year in the mid-1980s, as did Buena Vista and Grandfalls in recent season.

"I had to learn how to coach a completely different way, and the kids had to learn how to play differently," Barrandey said after his team made the playoffs in their second season of six man play. However, Sanderson's coach, Vance Jones, led Marathon to a couple of state titles 20 years ago, before moving up to the 11-man game, so the Eagles should know the right plays to run when they open their season on Friday.

Huntress even gives the Eagles' the top-rated player in the district in his preseason rankings, in center Roy Cash. Still, a post-season berth in their first year, after a 1-9 mark in 11-man last fall, would be a big surprise.
Buena Vista lost their key running back and District MVP in Adam Dominguez, but do return running backs Mark Soto and Dustin Sherwood, along with quarterback Jason Williams. Soto was first team at tailback while Williams and center Steve Gaines were second team selections.

Williams also took first team honors at linebacker, leading the team in tackles, and Josh Graham shared the first team safety spot with Balmorhea's Mendoza. Soto and Sherwood placed on the second team in linebacking roles.

Grandfalls looks ready to challenge for a playoff berth. They outplayed Balmorhea in the first half of their game last year before the Bears came on to win, and return a pair of second team all-district players on offense, in junior deep back Sammy Tavarez and senior end Jon Richardson.

Another junior, Jimmy Ramirez, returns at tailback. He was a second team defensive pick at safety. Troy Vasquez earned honorable mention a year ago at defensive end, and he already has 151 yards rushing and three touchdowns this season, after the Cowboys' 34-32 season-opening win at home over New Mexico six man power Lake Arthur last Friday.

Dell City took four years to go from 11-man play to the state finals, in 1993. They made it to the quarterfinals the following year, but dropped back to 3-5-2 last season. The Cougars get over half their starters back, and look to be strong going in on defense, with senior tackle Conrado Armijo a first team all-district choice last year, Senior tackle Pryor Templeton a second team pick and senior Javier Parra an honorable mention at linebacker.

Offensively, senior Able Valles, their No. 3 wide receiver last season when he earned honorable mention, moves over to quarterback.

Sludge and radioactive waste have helped give Sierra Blanca new workout facilities, new transportation, and even a trainer at their games, something most small schools can't afford. But the team would hope someone working at one of the two controversial new sites on either side of the city would bring in some top prospects as well.

The Vaqueros went 2-7 a year ago and graduated all of their all district selections. Their lone returning starters are end Jesus Macillas, quarterback Victor Rodriguez and running back Marino Mascarinas.

Down in Marathon, they would just like some more people, period. The Mustangs have been forced to drop football twice this decade due to a lack of boys in high school. They'll have enough this season, and have five of their six starters back from last season's 0-8 campaign, but did lose two-way all-district pick Joe Ray Ramirez to graduation. Safety Anthony McGuire was an honorable mention pick at safety, joining Balmorhea's Miranda as the only freshman named to the all-district squad.

Mustangs favored to reclaim district title from Chiefs

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The last time the Lake View Chiefs and Sweetwater Mustangs closed out the season against each other in a game that meant something to both squads was a long, long time ago.

Nineteen-eighty-three to be exact, when Lake View went into the Mustang Bowl and came out with a dramatic 35-33 victory that put the Chiefs in the playoffs as the District 4-4A runner-up team and sent the Mustangs off to basketball for the winter.

That game turned out to mark the end of an era for both teams. For Lake View, it was the beginning of "the dark decade," -- 10 years in which the Chiefs managed just one winning season, a 6-4 second place finish in 1985.
It was also the last year in a string of 20 straight seasons without a playoff spot for Sweetwater. They took the District 2-4A title the following season, and in 1985, captured the Class 4A state title. The Mustangs have been out of the playoffs only one year since.

But Sweetwater has been out of the district for the past two seasons, and San Angelo Lake View took advantage of their absence to come from nowhere under coach Kyle Gandy to win the past two 4-4A titles, going unbeaten in district play both times and finishing 8-2-1 last fall.

That still wasn't as good as Sweetwater did in 1995. They went through the entire season undefeated, though both teams ended up falling in the area round of the playoffs -- Sweetwater to eventual state runner-up Denison and Lake View to Borger.

Now, the latest University Interscholastic League realignment has sent the Mustangs back into District 4-4A to replace Monahans, and by the luck of the draw, the final week of the season has San Angelo headed to the Mustang Bowl to face Sweetwater, in what the pre-season predictions say will be for the district title.

Sweetwater is ranked No. 7 in the preseason state poll, despite losing Kerr Carr and his Class 4A-leading rushing totals from a year ago to Texas Tech. But since this is the school that has been able to replace one Division I-A prospect with another at the running back position just about every time they've needed to for the past decade, odds are Jason Blueford will be the latest in a line of 1,000 yard rushers by the end of the season, and the 1996 team will be the latest in a line of playoff qualifiers for the Mustangs.

San Angelo Lake View will be trying to show their two titles weren't just because the Mustangs were busy beating up on South Plains schools. Lake View and Pecos were the only two 4-4A squads not to face the Mustangs in non-district play the past two years, so Sweetwater's defense has yet to face two-time all-district quarterback Sterlin Gilbert. The Chiefs also return most of their other top skill position players, while coach Kyle Gandy tries to fill some vacancies on the line.

The same holds true pretty much for Big Spring, which saw their post-season hopes ended the final week of the season when they had to forfeit their victory over Pecos. Junior Antwoyne Edwards is the leading rusher from a year ago among returning 4-4A players, while sophomore Tori Mitchell figures to get behind a few defenses, having already picked up bronze medals in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the state track meet in May.

He wasn't the only freshman track star among 4-4A football players this past spring. Andrews' Shaud Williams earned a trip to Austin in the hurdles, and unlike Mitchell, already played a key role in Andrews' offense, as the Mustangs' No. 1 back in the second half of 1995. Coach Mike Lebby's main concern is trying to find replacements for 10 of his 11 starters off last season's district-leading defense that carried Andrews to their fourth post-season berth in five years.

Pecos went outside its own coaching staff for the first time in 25 years to hire former Odessa Permian assistant Mike Belew in April. He'll try and turn around a team that went 3-7 last season, but still had a shot at the playoffs going into their final game of the season. The Eagles get back all but nine of the players that finished 1995, while adding about 10 more to their varsity roster, and the added depth could help in close games, where Pecos' two-way starters have run out of gas late in the first half and in the fourth quarter in recent years.

That's also been a problem down in Fort Stockton, though coach Philip Lopez fixed that problem in his inaugural season a year ago. The effort barely showed up in the standings, with a 1-9 mark after a 0-10 year in 1994, but the sub-varsity teams lost only three of their 20 games last season, and that success should start showing up on the varsity this season.

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State and Regional Sports Pages--San Angelo Standard-Times

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