HONDO – This fall marks the first in 15 years that Brandon Devine can go home early in the afternoon after school.
While he may still be the athletic director for Hondo schools, he’s no longer the six-man football coach after reviving the program in 2002 and eventually leading the Eagles to three State titles.
That responsibility now falls to Isaac Polaco, taking the head job after 10 years as an assistant.
“It’s different now that all the responsibility is on me,” Polaco said of being named the head coach. “My deal is just to do as good as I can with the kids I have. It will be hard to fill Brandon’s shoes, he has a great athletic mind.
“We’ve worked well together as a team,” he added. “It will be hard to replace him, but we’ll try.”
Polaco takes on a team two years removed from its last State title, and one which has lost many of the great athletes that brought Hondo its glory.
“We have about 10 on varsity now, and we’re waiting on a few more to come out,” Polaco said. “It’s not a real big team, and it’s a young team, we only have three seniors, and only one has a lot of experience.”
That one experienced senior is Bryten Villa, who was on last year’s 3-5 team.
Joining him with some experience are juniors Jordan Murphy and Porfirio “Corky” Romero, as well as sophomores Dwaine Chavez and Thomas Hernandez.
Still, it’s a long way from the dominating teams the Eagles have had in the past.
“We need to train and refine them a little bit, pick up some skills and techniques,” Polaco said. “We hope to pull that out of them in the next two or three years, and hope to have that caliber a team again.”
After a year that ended with a loss to Lake Arthur in the first round of the State playoffs, Hondo still has a tough schedule ahead. Lake Arthur might be the team to beat in the state, but don’t count out teams like Floyd or Animas.
The Panthers – a District 2 opponent – have been gaining a lot of ground in numbers in the past few years, and might be ready to reclaim some gridiron dominance this season.
“There’s only three home games this season, so there’s going to be a lot on the road, and to some far places,” Polaco said. “At least Animas is coming to us this year. We’re familiar with all these teams, they’re familiar with us. We just have to get these boys ready and see what they can do.”