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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Odessa High's secondary beginning to make strides - Odessa American: Sports

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Odessa High's secondary beginning to make strides

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2019 6:51 pm

The early stretch of the season for the Odessa High football team has revolved around getting the new faces and players up to speed.

One side of the defense that has seen more of that transition than anywhere else on the field is the secondary.

The unit has four new starters and a number of backups see significant playing time trying to get things headed in the right direction.

And while there have been some bumps in the road, head coach Danny Servance said he continues to see improvement from that unit each week.

“They’re making strides and that’s what we want from them,” Servance said. “Playing good defense and being in the right place at the right time is the biggest thing for us.

“They’re growing, getting better and adapting to the speed of the game on Friday night and dealing with bigger, stronger wide receivers.”

It’s all part of a building process that the Bronchos are going through. Last year’s four regulars — Charles McClure, Xavier Minjarez, Parker Cherry and Alex Perales — combined for 209 tackles and seven interceptions.

As for this year’s secondary, the players understand the expectations they have to try and meet compared to last year’s team.

“They left a big standard for us and we’re trying to reach the level they got to last year,” said sophomore safety Diego Cervantes.

Cervantes, along with junior cornerback John Almance, are among the players getting their first taste of varsity action this season.

Aside from playing on the back of the defense, both players have brothers who have gone through the program as well.

John’s brother, Auden, graduated this past year, while Diego’s older brother Jesse, is currently one of the starters at safety for the Bronchos.

Servance said he’s also been pleased with their development at this point of the season.

“They’ve handled it well,” he said. “They have to learn a lot of things on the fly because they go through a lot during practice and the games. I think it helps to have brothers who have played before you with both John and Diego playing the same positions they did.”

Another aspect that helps is the experience the Bronchos do have coming back in the defensive backfield. After spending time mostly at wide receiver last year, senior Paulino Gabaldon was moved over to focus more on the defensive side of the ball.

It’s a bit of a change from last season but Gabaldon says he just wants to do whatever it takes to help the team.

“It’s just about stepping up and doing my job,” he said. “The biggest key for us is to believe in each other and trust that the guys can make a play on the ball.”

Making plays has been one of the biggest points of emphasis from the coaching staff through the first three games.

Almance recovered a fumble in last week’s game against Lubbock Coronado to add to the six the team has recovered so far. The team, however, has not been able to intercept a pass after managing nine a year ago.

The Bronchos have faced a pair of strong quarterbacks in Sawyer Robertson of Coronado last week and Coreon Bailey of Lubbock Monterey in the season opener three weeks ago.

The hope now is that those early challenges will help them starting today against El Paso Montwood. The Rams, led by senior quarterback Sebastian Galvan, run an up-tempo spread offense like the previously-mentioned Lubbock teams.

“They (Montwood) like to throw the ball a lot so we’re going to be tested this week,” Almance said. “I think those games prepared me a lot. Even though this is my first year on varsity, I feel better about what to expect.”

Servance is also hoping that the group can keep making those necessary strides before the end of the nondistrict schedule.

“Our point of emphasis is still getting more takeaways and making plays on the ball,” he said. “We can do a better job of making those kinds of plays and coming up with interceptions. We’ve got guys in position and those plays haven’t happened yet but that will come in time.”

Odessa, TX

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