The loss didn’t feel any less painful on Tuesday than it did right after the game four days before.
The wound, instead of starting to heal, might have grown even deeper for Mickey Owens and his Monahans football team. Because unlike the previous two years, when the Loboes’ last game was a lopsided loss, this was a game they came excruciatingly close to winning.
Owens said losses like Friday’s, a 37-34 overtime game against Gatesville in a Class 3A Division II regional playoff at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, are harder to get over than most.
“Not good,” said Owens, who was asked how he was holding up. “I’m still pouting.”
The Loboes would love to still be practicing this week and preparing for what would have been their third straight appearance in the state quarterfinals. But they have no choice but to wonder could have been in a game they led almost from start to finish and executed their game plan to a winged T.
Owens said he and his players could envision an endless number of scenarios — an extra block here, a missed tackle there, a penalty flag picked up — that could have turned the game in their favor. But he also said the Loboes did everything in their power to win, and the players gave everything they had, so there’s no use second-guessing and feeling sorry for themselves.
They simply got beat by an undefeated Gatesville team led by a determined senior quarterback in Cole Edmiston, who accounted for 354 of his team’s 397 total yards and all five of its touchdowns.
“I’m proud of my team,” Monahans center Joe Brandenburg said after the game. “We laid it all out on the line.”
Owens said he and the Loboes will eventually get over the loss on the field, which never stings quite as much as the losses in the locker room. Brandenburg is one of 28 seniors who have played their last football game for Monahans, and many of them will be sorely missed.
Quarterback Zack Navarro was a part of 20 victories during the last two seasons, and running backs Freddy Garcia and Rogelio Sauceda combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards this season. Monahans also graduates four starting offensive linemen, leading tackler Jackson Scharf and two of its leading pass rushers in Tivo Armendariz and AJ Sanchez.
Those players helped the Loboes overcome a 2-3 record in nondistrict play and gave them a quiet confidence that translated into fearlessness on the field. Despite being physically overmatched by opponents such as Gatesville and Abilene Wylie, which held off Monahans 20-17 en route to winning the District 4-3A championship, the Loboes were never intimidated or discouraged.
“If there was ever a street fight, I want all 47 of those guys,” Owens said after Friday’s game. “I guarantee you, they’ll fight you. They will fight you.”
The Loboes will live to fight another day, even if they’re done fighting for this year. Owens and his assistant coaches are taking stock of the program this week, holding individual meetings with the players and developing a plan for next season, and next week they’ll begin their offseason training program.
Owens said the district race could be even tougher next year — Wylie and Greenwood, the other playoff teams from 4-3A, also reached the third round — but Monahans has a good foundation from which to build. Among the returnees are Haasan Walker, who emerged as a playmaking quarterback late in the season, defensive starters Barry Clayton, Bubba Spencer and Bryan Venegas, and Junior Morales, who starts at receiver and defensive back while also punting.
The goal for next season already has been established, because it’s the same goal for every Monahans team. The Loboes want to play in December and make it to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, where the state championship games are held.
A picture of Cowboys Stadium was hung on a wall in the Monahans turf room before this season started, and Owens said it won’t be going anywhere.
“We want to be the last ones to take our shoulder pads off,” Owens said. “That’s our goal, and we’re not going to waver from it. Sooner or later we’ll get there.”
Maybe at this time next year, Owens and the Loboes will be practicing instead of pouting.