The Odessa High football team put up pinball numbers in the 2021 season.
New head coach Dusty Oritz and offensive coordinator Creighton Reed tried to get everyone to understand that something new was afoot at the corner of 13th and Dotsy.
Few believed, however, that the Bronchos were capable of switching gears so quickly.
No one, perhaps even Ortiz and Reed, could have expected the end result after just six months in charge of the program.
Odessa High averaged 31.7 points per game after scoring just 245 in the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined.
Senior quarterback Diego Cervantes began the season throwing for 243 yards in the season opener against Lubbock Monterey, never slowing down until an injury against Midland Legacy derailed his season, along with the Bronchos’ playoff chances.
Cervantes returned for the season finale against Wolfforth Frenship and left an indelible mark, passing for a school-record 507 yards to cap his career.
Wide receiver Ivan Carreon quickly became his favorite target, the 6-foot-6 sophomore finishing with a record-setting 77 receptions for 1,114 yards and seven touchdowns.
The receptions and yardage were single-season marks for the program and had Carreon not left the season finale with cramps in his legs, he likely would have set the Bronchos’ career-yardage mark in his first year on varsity.
While the offense was enjoying its breakout year, the defense was struggling to find an identity and consistency.
Yes, the Bronchos’ snapped a 13-game losing streak in Week 2 with a shutout in Del Rio and earned their first District 2-6A victory since 2108 with a victory against San Angelo Central.
But Odessa High was surrendering eight more points, on average, than it was scoring, finding it difficult to keep pace with some of the more established programs on a weekly basis.
The Bronchos needed to be perfect each night and they struggled at times, hence the 3-7 record at the end of the season.
That was then and now Ortiz and his staff had had the athletes for a full offseason and summer.
It’s time for the second act.
Jaylien Jones was watching Cervantes guide the Bronchos’ offense down the field against Midland Legacy, something that everyone on Odessa High sideline had gotten used to when everything changed.
After getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage, Cervantes didn’t get back to his feet for several anxious moments.
His night was finished and Jones’ varsity career was kicked in high gear.
“Jaylien was put in a tough situation from the get go,” Ortiz said. “His first look that everybody saw him was against Legacy and that was a tough one.
“They were the best team in the area, they were solid, they were beyond solid. It wasn’t a good situation to bring him in there but that was our only option, so everyone kind of has that view of him.”
The Odessa High coaching staff and Jones’ teammates take a different view.
Jones understood, after his baptism by fire, that he was going to have to becoming fully submerged in the offense if he hoped to lead the team in 2022.
So he jumped in with both feet and now the team is his heading into the season.
“Jaylien has done a tremendous job during the offseason and 7-on-7,” Reed said. “But he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do, coming to the workouts, studying film.
“He’s a totally different quarterback than the one who played against Legacy and it’s going to be exciting to watch him.”
Quarterback is just one question mark for the Bronchos’ offense.
They need to find an every-down running back and at least one other wide receiver to take the heat off Carreon.
Tight end Blaine Mendoza is back and will help Jones as a reliable target over the middle and in short-yardage situations.
Sophomore running back Jorge Valdez has emerged as one of the top candidates to line up beside Jones as Dejuan Green recovers from offseason surgery.
“He worked his way up through the freshman teams and was our featured back in the Spring game,” Ortiz said of Valdez. “He doesn’t look the part, but he can make people miss and get some yardage.
“We have a committee of running backs until Dae Dae is 100 percent.”
On the outside, Keilan Green should see significant playing time as the Bronchos look to continue their attack down the field.
Jones is looking forward to the challenges.
“I feel like I’m more prepared,” he said. “I’ve going through a lot of workouts on my own to get better and working with (quarterback) Coach (Matt Vinson).
“He helps us out a lot, whatever we need. I think we are looking good and we are going for the playoffs; our work ethic is really good and you can tell that this what everyone wants.”
For the Bronchos to reach their goal of making the postseason, this is the side of the football that absolutely has to improve in 2022.
And the players know that from the start.
“We should have made the playoffs last year,” defensive tackle Da’Mareon Gray said. “The games against Abilene High and Frenship, we didn’t do our jobs.
“That motivated us for this year. We want to be the most improved defense in the state.”
That lofty goals begins with Gray and his defensive linemates Marcos Marquez, Jamikel Cobb and Isaiah Essary.
Being disciplined, stopping the run and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks will allow the Bronchos’ linebackers and secondary to step up and make plays from sideline to sideline.
Odessa High is going to be less experienced at linebacker than in the past, but is bringing back players that saw playing time last season.
In the secondary, junior Jayven Gonzales is a returning starter at safety, along with taking some snaps as the team’s backup quarterback.
Another person seeing double duty is Keilan Green at cornerback, with Adrian Muzquiz at the other corner.
Dreshon Douglas, a wide receiver last season, has made the switch to defense and will join Gonzales as a safety.
“Jayven, he has to be a great tackler and great coverage guy and he’s done a great job,” said Ortiz, who took over defensive coordinator duties as well this year. “Adrian Muzquiz, he’s a basketball guy and he’s really impressed at corner.
“KG, he has the speed, he has the hips, everything you look for in a corner but we have to make sure we keep track of his reps because he’s a starter on offense. Drayson Douglas was a wide receiver and made the switch and makes us stronger.”
The Bronchos had a kicker last season that liked to kick off and then run downfield and make the tackle.
Admirable qualities, but not really what head coaches are looking for from a player who is usually the last line of defense, not the one sticking his helmet into the chest of the kick returner.
It backfired twice on Odessa High as it saw its kicker miss several games with concussions before eventually deciding to move back to the soccer field.
It did, however, allow the Bronchos to see how sophomore Aidric Rivera fared under the lights.
Rivera is back for the kickoff and place kicking chores, while Carreon will line up at punter for the Bronchos.
“Aidric did a good job for us last year when we needed him and we are going to be fine there,” Ortiz said. “And Ivan, he’s a good punter and having him back there will give us some other options as well.”
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ODESSA HIGH BRONCHOS
— COACHES —
>> Head coach: Dusty Ortiz.
>> Coach’s overall record: 3-7.
>> Coach’s record at school: 3-7.
>> Assistant coaches, duties: Creighton Reed, offensive coordinator; Gabe Smallwood, secondary; Marquee Allison, defensive ends; Watkin Cocker, defensive tackles; Derrick Mayweather, linebackers; Clayton Roberts, safeties; Keven Murphy, secondary; Colin Valley, offensive line; Julian Mendez, tight ends; Jon Brooks, running backs; Breckon Reed, wide receivers; Ryan Berns, wide receivers; Joe Flores, offensive line; Mark Gibson, defensive line; Matt Vinson, quarterbacks.
— TEAM INFORMATION —
>> 2021 overall record: 3-7.
>> 2021 district record: 1-5 (seventh).
>> Last district title: 2013.
>> Last playoff appearance: 2013.
>> Stadium name: Ratliff Stadium (19,500).
>> Base offense: Spread.
>> Base defense: Multiple.
— PLAYERS —
>> Returning lettermen: 33.
>> Returning starters: 9 (5 offense, 4 defense).
>> Key returners: Ivan Carreron, 6-6, 200, Jr., WR; Jose Guerrero, 6-1, 220, Sr., OL/DL; Gerado Vasquez, 6-1, 260, Jr., OL; Blane Mendoza, 6-0, 200, Sr., TE; Da’Marion Gray, 6-1, 250, Sr., DL; Jamikel Cobb, 6-1, 220, Sr., DL; Marcos Marquez, 6-0, 200, Sr., DE; Jesus Carrasco, 5-11, 190, Sr., LB; Javon Gonzales, 5-10, 180, Jr., DB/QB.
>> Key newcomers: N/A.
2022 ODESSA HIGH ROSTER
No. Name Pos. Yr.
1 Ivan Carreon WR Jr.
2 Carlos Sanchez RB Sr.
3 Joel Aranda WR Sr.
4 Andy Martinez DB Jr.
5 Jalen Warren WR Soph.
6 Jayven Gonzales DB/QB Jr.
7 Keilan Green WR Sr.
9 Dejean Green RB Jr.
10 Jaylien Jones QB Sr.
11 Zayne Minjarez DB Jr.
12 Andrews Rodriguez WR Fr.
13 Izek Lujan WR Jr.
15 Fabio Ramos DB Sr.
16 Jesus Gomez DB Jr.
17 Dreshon Douglas DB Jr.
18 Blaine Mendoza TE Sr.
19 Jesus Carrasco LB Sr.
20 Adrian Muzquiz DB Sr.
21 Isaiah Munoz DB Soph.
22 Marcos Marichalar RB Sr.
23 Julius Galindo DB Sr.
24 Aaron Sanchez DB Sr.
25 Jaime Perez DB Sr.
26 Aidric Rivera K Jr.
27 David Rojas DB Sr.
28 Xavier Brito DB Sr.
29 Azari Byford DB Sr.
30 Jose Ramos LB/DE Sr.
32 Mikahel DeLeon LB Sr.
33 Jesus Dominguez DE Jr.
36 Jacob Carrasco WR Sr.
39 Jacob Pornan LB/K Soph.
40 Nicolae Hernandez DE Sr.
42 Marcos Marquez LB/DE Sr.
44 Jamikel Cobb DL Sr.
46 Avery Chance TE Sr.
48 Jesus Montes LB Jr.
52 Michael Marin DL Sr.
53 Isaiah Essary DL Sr.
54 Daniel Garcia DL Soph.
56 Javier Fernandez OL Sr.
58 Juan Tarango LB Soph.
59 Santiago Garcia OL Jr.
60 Keegan Swift DL Sr.
61 Christian Quiroz OL Sr.
62 Jonathan Dozal OL Sr.
63 Da’Mareon Gray DL/TE Sr.
66 Damian Domginuez OL Jr.
67 Jose Guerrero OL/DL Sr.
70 Gerardo Vasquez OL Jr.
77 Genevivo Lucio OL/TE Sr.