I meant to assemble this when spring football wrapped up a couple weeks ago but a vacation caused my delay. None-the-less, here it is, my post spring Laredo high school football power rankings:
1. Alexander Bulldogs
returners: 5 on offense, 9 on defense
Alexander returns a ridiculous number of athletes from a team that lasted a district-best three rounds in the playoffs. The combination of Brian Swain and Xavier Skaggs returning on offense is huge for this team as that Swain-Skaggs expressway was the biggest tool that made Alexander’s offense run last season. The team’s defense was superb for the majority of the season, despite a few games where they unexpectedly performed below par. With so many returners on hand, the defense’s consistency should improve and this might just be the strongest unit in the district.
2. United Longhorns
returners: 4 on offense, 4 on defense
United may look like its in rebuilding mode with only 8 total returners, but keep in mind the JV team that the new recruits are coming from went undefeated in district last season. They should be more than ready to jump straight into the fray. The story of the spring was the new-look offense focused around Billy Williams and a mobile quarter-back centric zone-read option running game. It will be interesting to see how the Horns fare in 2011, but odds are they end the season right up there near the top.
3. Cigarroa Toros
returners: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
No team was more vocal about its 2011 ambitions and few teams were more impressive on the practice field. The Cigarroa Toros look ready to be a legit contender for the district’s fourth 2011 playoff berth. The new offense, led by new OC Lamar Rodriguez, looked far more efficient than last year’s unit which frequently struggled to move the ball. If the offensive line can offer the protection the backfield needs then Cigarroa could easily be the most improved team offensively in 29-5a. On defense, the Toros biggest loss is a pair of exemplary ball hawking safeties but DC Luis Lauriano should have his unit pinning their ears back and as dangerous as ever. The Toros should once again start their year with a 4-0 run, what they do from there will determine if its playoffs or bust for Cigarroa.
4. United South Panthers
returners: 4 on offense, 2 on defense
United South’s offense was, at times, quietly efficient last season. Their defense was, thanks to a plethora of injuries, a patchwork effort. The loss of 9 defensive players will sting but won’t hurt as much as it would have if they were shed from an elite unit. The new faces will have an opportunity to prove something this year as the Panthers learned last year that offense can’t win them all. The offense looked decent at the start of their spring game, then it looked good, then it looked great. If this Panther offense can find its rhythm early in a game, look out. They should do a decent job making some noise and putting a scare into some of their bigger conference brethren.
5. LBJ Wolves
returners: 3 on offense, 4 on defense
LBJ’s strength last year was a veteran defense that coaches called the culmination of a three year project. This year, almost the entire defense outside the line backing corps is gone. The defense should still be salty, but it will likely take a significant step back from the incredible unit the Wolves fielded last year. This, in turn, puts a lot more pressure on an offense which lost its go-to player, running back Ricky Flores, to graduation just the other day. The team will now lean increasingly on Luis Vaca, a do-it-all player who they increasingly pressed into service last year, who they’ve moved to the quarterback position. Expect an offense with more moving parts than the Wolves have displays the past couple years, the success of this unit will determine how much success the Wolves can find in 2011.
6. Nixon Mustangs
returners: (Nixon did not participate in Spring football so I did not get an accurate count of their returning players)
The Nixon Mustangs were one of two teams that didn’t hold a spring workout these recent months, which makes them a bit of a mystery at this point. Their struggles last year however, when they went 1-9, mean they need to prove themselves before they can be ranked much higher. A second year under coach Ramirez should do the Mustangs some good but they will need to improve at every stage of the game if they’re to escape the district’s basement.
7. Martin Tigers
returners: (Martin did not participate in Spring football so I did not get an accurate count of their returning players)
The Martin Tigers are the second Laredo team to not participate in spring drills this year. The Tigers lost their former head coach Don Davis, who brought the team one of its four playoffs berths in school history, and replaced him with coach David Charles, formerly a defensive coordinator of Del Rio. Due to monetary constraints, Charles is allowed to only bring in a couple new coaches with him as he takes the helm and he’s having to retain coach Davis’s staff for the rest of his needs. This hodge-podge staff will need to learn to be comfortable with each other and work together in a hurry if the team is to improve, or even hold even, after a 2-8 season a year ago. The biggest change to be expected? A new power running game offense, similar to what LBJ employed in past seasons, and an abandonment of the double wing that was a staple of Davis’ playbook.