A new normal

I n a year of uncertainty, the Dilley Wolves have been able to pull together and in the midst of great adversity, have been able to kick off their football season on time, albeit under a modified, eight game schedule.

That fact is not lost on Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Lamar Rodriguez, who has expressed his gratitude is not only being able to take the field, but to do it knowing several programs across the state will not have the same opportunity.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to compete this year, we will take it one day at a time and work to the best of our abilities to represent our program and community,” he said. “Regarding adversity surrounding COVID-19, our team has just come together to work hard with this opportunity to compete this fall with the understanding that others are still uncertain about their seasons.
“We will respect this moment as we move forward, doing our best to meet all guidelines and expectations that come with the participation of the 2020 season, “ he added. “The coaching staff has done a great job of staying updated with all UIL, TEA and Dilley ISD guidelines. They have worked hard every day preparing since we entered this time in March by keeping our kids positive and in preparing for the start of the season in August.”
Trying to rebuild a program that finished 0-10 a year ago is hard enough in its own right, but adding to it a worldwide pandemic that has shut down the economy and forced a majority of the population to adhere to new safety precautions adds additional obstacles into the mix.
Coach Rodriguez noted this among the many new hurdles his team has had to overcome.
“All the new guidelines set forth by UIL and TEA for participating in athletics,” he said. “Some of the biggest hurdles are all the new details added and having to adjust our everyday practices and game day routines.”
On top of these added inconveniences, the coach said his main obejective is trying to keep a young and experienced team healthy through an eight game season without having had a full offseason program due to COVID-19.
The Wolves return eight starters on both sides of the ball but from a winless squad that did not make the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
“We are solid in regards to our team discipline and sense of togetherness,” he said. “We need to keep continuing to build on our experiences of competition. We need to stay healthy, continue to build on all our positive experiences and compete to the best of our abilities to earn a top four position (in district).”
As if things weren’t bad enough with the additional distractions from the pandemic and its accompanying health protocols, the Wolves also have to contend with changes brought about from the UIL’s biennial realignment in February.
Dilley was moved into District 16-3A, Division II from 15-3A, DII and welcomes a tough newcomer in George West. The Longhorns dropped down from the larger 3A, Division I where they were 12-1 regional semifinalists a year ago.
“According to Texas Football (magazine), the front runners are George West and Poth,” Rodriguez said. “In regards to Dilley football history, don’t ever underestimate the Dilley Wolves.”
The coach says the team will be led once again by quarterback Cristian Aranda.
“He does a great job helping keep the team positive and managing the run game,” Rodriguez said. “He is a balanced athlete that can run and throw the ball.
Staying on the offensive side, Rodriguez’s Slot-T offense will run through Carlos Gonzalez.
“He is a running back that can be effective both running inside the tackles and on the edge. He also has hands to execute routes to contribute to the passing game.
With wide receivers contributing in a different role in the offense, the coach says he has a pair that should make plays both rushing and receiving.
“Niko Guerra and Jacent Cantu both contribute to the run game but also are capable of making big catches in the passing game.”
Moving the ball consistently while also breaking off big plays in the run game will be key for the Wolves in 2020.
The offense is predicated on ball control, clock management and keep the opposing team’s offense off the field.
“We have been able to move the ball in our run game,” he said. “We were able to have some explosive runs in our scrimmage against Carrizo Springs and against Sabinal.”
Dilley is likewise young and inexperienced on the defensive side but does have a pair of solid playmakers in the mix.
“Clay Tom Hurt will be a strong leader on defense,” the coach noted. “He will bring plenty of pressure against both the run and pass games of our opponents.
“Carlos Gonzalez is a four-year returner on defense and will also provide experience and leadership at the linebacker position.”
Fielding a young team that has experienced limited success is a challenge in its own right. Doing so amid a worldwide health crisis presents an additional layer of challenges. Coaches often worry about player health and team depth and that aspect has been taken to a whole new level in 2020.
“We have some young players rotating into positions,” Coach Rodriguez said. “But with time and staying healthy, we continue to grow into our experience.”