Justin Del Bosque knew he would be walking into a lot of challenging surprises when he was named head football coach at Lingleville ISD, which is bringing the sport back after more than 40 years.
On Friday, however, he was treated to a surprise of the good kind.
“I looked up on the burn by the tennis courts and there were fans out there watching us,” Del Bosque said. “I think there were about 30 or more who kind of came and went. It was odd, especially for a practice, to look up there and see that many people.”
The fans weren’t the only ones surprising Del Bosque. Some of the players continued to impress the young coach in their first practices in full pads Friday.
“The kids were excited about wearing the pads. They’ve wanted to hit each other for a while and have been calling each other out,” he said.
Del Bosque said aggression wasn’t a problem, but channeling it is still something the Cardinals are working on.
“Obviously we’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there,” he said. “The kids are being aggressive and playing hard, they just have to learn how to use that aggression - how to tackle and how to block. It just takes time.”
With a first-year program, one of the immediate hurdles to clear was deciding who should play where.
“We’ve been getting into positions, and some kids are still moving around but we’re making progress,” the head coach said.
Del Bosque feels he’s already found a couple players capable of toting the mail.
“Chris Carter is a junior and he’s going to be a tailback. He’s probably about 170 or 175 pounds. That’s good size for six-man and he’s looked good in practice,” he said.
There are others fighting for action out of the backfield.
“Nery Suarez has surprised us on offense. He’s really quick and it’s hard to get your hands on him,” he said. “Ernesto Nava is another one. He’s a big, thick kid who can play both fullback or tailback and he’s playing linebacker on defense.”
Whoever plays quarterback has big shoes to fill at any level. That’s okay, Del Bosque says, because Robert Van Kranenburg has big feet.
“He’s a freshman and he’s a big kid. He’s close to six foot and wears a size 14 shoe,” the coach said of Van Kranenburg. “We have a senior, Michael Conaster, who will also play a little quarterback.”
The coach noted several others he has been pleased with this week, including defensive end/linebacker Taylor Griffin and center/defensive end Nick Payton.
There is also good size up front with the likes of guard/nose guard Tony Govea, guard/nose guard Antonio Medina and guard Dylan Anderson. Anderson and Govea are seniors and Medina is a sophomore.
Del Bosque says the butterflies haven’t hit him yet, but he is already looking forward to the Cardinals’ opener against Stephenville Faith, also a startup program, on Aug. 27.
“I’m not nervous yet,” he said. “But I am kind of excited for the kids to get to that first game.”