By Eric Blum, Odessa American
Van Horn head coach Brian Gibson knew this was coming.
After last year’s playoff run, numbers are down for the Eagles. However, the 2016 squad gives Gibson confidence.
“I don’t have a lot of kids playing,” said Gibson, whose squad has around 25 players. “But I have a strong senior class; we just don’t have anyone underneath them. We can be explosive if we are going to be healthy.”
The Eagles coach knew this dilemma was coming for a few years now.
“I can’t really put my finger on why,” Gibson said. “There’s going to be a lull for a couple years of number of kids per grade. We are going to have kids that never come off the field. They know that and they are getting in shape to play that way.”
Even with that problem, Gibson doesn’t plan on scaling down his playbook or making any big style changes for the Eagles.
“We’re trying to move faster and quicker in the same offense,” said offensive and defensive tackle Isaac Baeza. “We’re expecting to do a lot this year. We need to work as a team and not just focusing on one player on the team.”
Gibson echoed that statement.
“We don’t play an easy style of offense for that,” Gibson said. “It doesn’t affect them one bit, we’ve never had more than 35 kids. We’ve struggled to have a JV since I’ve been here.
“They know what’s in front of them and you add that on top of the number of kids we have, but we don’t hang our head about them and we move forward.”
The Eagles lost a large senior class from a year ago, but return several players with plenty of experience.
“They’ve got the physical tools to succeed,” Gibson said. “I just try to preach to the kids to compete. They need to compete in track and basketball, in the weight room and not accept losing.
“ They’ve learned to compete and they hate to lose. You got to hate to lose more than you love to win. They’re driven by the fear of failure.”
Among the Van Horn players returning is Damien Tarango, who expects the Eagles to replicate last year’s success because of how long they’ve been playing together.
“We know each other well and we will work together as a team,” Tarango said. “It’s like having that Pee Wee team all over again. It’s so easy to get along and work together.”
But even with any participation problems that Van Horn might have, the memories of playoff wins and a 7-on-7 state tournament appearance fuels them to add more hardware to its trophy case.
“We walked out the first day of practice and they knew exactly what to do,” Gibson said. “It’s almost like we didn’t have to be there. They knew what to do and how to get it done. It was refreshing.”