Expectations still high in S’water despite big losses

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

Sweetwater fans will be checking their programs a little more than usual when the Mustangs begin the 2018 high school football season later this month.
For the first time in four years, Chris Thompson isn’t taking snaps at quarterback and Kobe Clark isn’t lined up at wide receiver. Those two all-staters are just two of the Mustangs’ 23 letterman who graduated.
So can one of the most remarkable four-year runs in Sweetwater history — the Mustangs have gone 48-7 since 2014 including just their third trip to the state finals ever — keep going?
Don’t tell Ben McGehee, who led the team to a 10-3 season after arriving here as head coach a year age, that it can’t.
“It (the goal of winning every game) doesn’t change,” he said.
“Reaching and accomplishing those goals may be more difficult, but we’re going to to challenge the kids just like we did last year,” he continued. “We may have some growing pains early due to youth, but by district we should have a chance to be a pretty good football team.
“Early on,” said McGehee, “we’ll find out a lot about ourselves and what we will be good at. But after that I expect us to contend for a district championship.”
Sweetwater will get some serious tests before district play begins on Sept. 28, as its four non-district opponents are Cisco, Big Spring, Wichita Falls Hirschi and Iowa Park.
Meanwhile, the new district (1-4A Division II) is the same as the old district with one change.
Seminole, which last year won the district title, is now in 2-4A, Division I. But the Indians will be replaced by Snyder, returning one of the state’s best district rivalries after a four-year absence — although the Mustangs and Tigers played non-district games against each other the past four years.
Sweetwater, which last won a district championship in 2015, will host Snyder Oct. 26 and also gets Monahans at home to end the regular season Nov. 9 while going to Greenwood, the pre-district favorite, on Sept. 28.
Greenwood has received a No. 11 preseason ranking in 4A, Division II by Texas Football, while Sweetwater received a No. 19 ranking by the legendary magazine.
Sweetwater will have a freshman, Leo Holsey, and a sophomore, Seth Garcia, competing at quarterback plus senior Taiden Smith. At running back, Alex Gallegos, who had 208 yards until a season-ending injury, returns. Kei Griffin, Josh Camacho and Blake Scott are in the rotation as well. Competing for the two outside receiver spots will be Daiman Atkins, Aaron Aguilar, Elijah Reyes and Eli Hendrix, while the candidates for the two slot receiver positions are Markus Meneses, Darian Carr, Andres Neri, Tyler Warner and Reece Palafox.
The H-back spot will be filled by Tony Padilla, Ryan Romero or Wyatt McCoy.
Guard Max Rodriguez and tackle Justin Castereno anchor the offensive line. The center is Gavin Reyes and players who are competing for spots also include Angel Longoria, Marshall Mills, Nick Granado, Ely Barrera, Logan King and Tayton Burnett.
Sweetwater’s returning starter on the defensive line is King at tackle. The competition for the four-man line also includes Padilla, David Ehlert and Hendrix at end and Castereno, Josh Sanchez, Mills and Granado at tackle.
Projected starters at linebacker are Gallegos in the middle, Neri on the weak side and Camacho on the strong side, with Griffin and Romero also competing for playing time.
The secondary includes Aguilar and either Carr or Palafox at cornerback and Warner and Meneses at safety, with Ayden Rosas and Jordan Sims also competing for playing time.
Coaching staff
McGehee has some new coaches on his varsity staff including defensive coordinator Mario Heredia, who moved up from the middle school; Craig Jackson, who will coach the offensive line; and Jason Brock, who will coach cornerbacks. Roland Herrera will coach defensive ends and Tanner Crain is moving from the middle school to coach receivers.