Fabian Baeza makes Permian Basin Player of the Week

BY JUSTIN LEE
Reprinted from Odessa American, Oct. 13, 2014

After two dismal seasons of football in Van Horn, Eagles head coach Brian Gibson was ready to see a change.

The Eagles were winless a season ago, finishing 0-10 in 2013. That after a 1-9 campaign in 2012.

Whatever Van Horn was doing wasn’t working. Before the 2014 season, Gibson says, it was time to give more control to his kids and let them try to win games with their natural ability.

“We’ve tried to turn our kids loose a little bit and let them play football,” Gibson said Monday. “Instead of trying to make it so robotic and structured in what they’re doing, we’re trying to let them play a little street ball.”

That added emphasis on natural instincts and playmaking ability has paid dividends for Van Horn. The Eagles are 3-4 this season, entering a pivotal matchup at Wink on Friday, with a playoff berth still very possible for Van Horn.

No one on the Eagles squad has benefited more from that change of philosophy — or been a bigger part to Van Horn’s turnaround — than junior quarterback Fabian Baeza.

Last week, Baeza passed for 453 yards and five touchdowns on 31-of-60 passing, while rushing for 96 more yards and another score in a 48-38 loss to Eldorado.
“I think we did pretty good,” Baeza said Monday. “We got a loss but I think me and my teammates played very hard and very well. We never stopped and we kept fighting.”

After struggling two years in a row, no one could have blamed an Eagles player if they did stop fighting — especially Baeza, who started at quarterback as an underclassman through all of it.

But perseverance has paid off for the Eagles this season — especially for Baeza, who has been allowed more freedom within the offense as Gibson opened up the Van Horn attack.

So far this season, Baeza, the Permian Basin Player of the Week, has thrown for 1,221 yards and 15 touchdowns on 85-of-182 passing with six interceptions.

More important, the Eagles have already tripled their win total from the last two seasons combined.

“It’s been very good,” Baeza said. “It’s been allowing me to look more down the field and look for my wide receivers and my targets.

“We’ve been opening it up a lot more and throwing the ball a lot more.”

Gibson said it’s been a steady process to open up the Van Horn offense to the spread attack it is now, from the Wishbone offense it was when Gibson arrived in 2011 and when Baeza was an eighth-grader.

The biggest difference in the offense from this season to last, Gibson said, is that Baeza now has the ability to make changes at the line of scrimmage, including killing any run play to a pass play if the defense shows him certain reads.

“A lot of our offense is structured around the freedom for our quarterback to make the throw even on a called run play,” Gibson said. “He can automatically change it out. There’s automatics built into the routes with our receivers. I may call a run play, and he’ll pick up and throw the football because he sees that they’re bringing a backer in too tight or whatever it is.”