Mickey Owens has lost just two season openers in eight seasons as Monahans High School’s head football coach.
Both times, including last season on the Loboes’ home turf at Estes Memorial Stadium, the setbacks have been to perennial private school power Midland Christian.
The Mustangs, who Monahans face again at 7:30 tonight to kick off the 2013 campaign at the newly renovated Mustang Field, have won six TAPPS state championships in the last 12 years and are coming off back-to-back title runs.
“The only way you expose weaknesses is to play really good football teams,” said Owens, who has led the Loboes to the playoffs in all eight of his seasons. “Midland Christian will expose some of those weaknesses, probably more than we want to be exposed, but that’s just part of it.”
Monahans began last season with a 42-28 loss to Midland Christian, the first of three defeats suffered in five tough nondistrict games in 2012.
But the Loboes got better from it and went on to reach the regional round of the postseason.
“We always try to schedule up quite a bit,” Owens said. “We may take some lumps along the way, we may take a loss, but in the long run the goal is to make a run at the playoffs and if the record is a little weaker, so be it. We went 8-5 last year and everybody talks about us going to the third round (of the playoffs), they don’t talk about us losing five games.”
Midland Christian coach Greg McClendon shares the same philosophy.
Despite leading his team to victory in each of the past two seasons against Monahans, McClendon is 3-5 against the Loboes with Owens as the coach.
“Whatever weaknesses we have on our team, they’re going to show up in the (Monahans) game, because they’re going to attack those weaknesses,” McClendon said. “Every year, whether we win or lose, it’s a game that helps our team get ready to go and do the things we need to do in order to be a successful football team.”
The Mustangs didn’t show many weaknesses last year with a balanced offensive attack that generated more than 5,700 yards (2,869 passing, 2,849 rushing) and a defense that yielded an average of just 12.4 points per game. The 28 points allowed to Monahans were the most Midland Christian allowed all season.
The Mustangs return their leading passer from 2012, McClendon’s son Mason (2,683 passing, 29 touchdowns), leading rusher Justin Fender (852 yards, 13 TDs) and leading receiver Jarod Koym (981 yards, 14 TDs).
“When I think of Monahans, I think of a really hard-nosed football team that knows how to play the game right,” said Koym, who starts on both sides of the ball for the Mustangs. “Offensively they start fast and give everyone they play a challenge. If you can’t match their tempo, it’s going to be a tough game. Defensively, they adjust well to different things and just play really smart and disciplined.”
Monahans returns just three starters from last year’s offense which averaged almost 400 yards per game but have several players back who saw a significant amount of playing time.
Leading the Loboes will be senior quarterback Haasan Walker, who saw plenty of action during Monahans’ playoff run —rushing for 301 yards and passing for 279 while splitting time under center.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Walker said of stepping into the starting role. “I really don’t feel much pressure. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and I’m just going to try to do what I need to do. But I know it’s a pretty important game. We’re going to have to limit our turnovers, execute on offense and play really good defense.”
Nicko Jasso, Manny Aparicio, Junior Morales and Jacob Lair are a few of the Loboes who will share the offensive load.
Defensively a good nucleus returns with four starters, including leading tackler Bryan Venegas.
“Monahans year in and year out is one of the best teams in West Texas regardless of classification or enrollment,” McClendon said. “They’re going to put a very disciplined and a very well-coached team on the field and they’re never going to give up. They’re going to fight you tooth and nail and are just a great challenge for our kids. Hopefully that’s what we provide for them.”
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