MONAHANS Playing December football is the goal for every high school team in the state of Texas.

For the Monahans Loboes, it has only made them hungrier.

The team returns five starters on offense and six on defense from last year’s 10-4 season which included a 5-0 showing in District 1-4A D-II ended in the regional finals.

“Playing December football was a lot of fun,” Monahans head coach Fred Staugh said. “We enjoyed being around those guys. They worked hard and found a way to win in difficult situations. It really showed our team this year that those things are possible if you work hard enough and you have a few things go your way and if you do things the right way. They’re definitely motivated. They’ve done a great job so far at camp.”

Last year’s playoff run may have caught some people off guard.

Now, the Loboes must go into this season with a bull target on their backs.

“I think there’s a target on our backs from last year,” Staugh said. “I think people are coming for us. That’s ok. We’re expecting that. Every game is going to be tough and we’re going to get the opponents’ best and we’re going to focus on ourselves and make sure we’re playing our best in every game.”

Last year’s playoff run was the deepest for Monahans since 2011.

Still, Monahans will have plenty of weapons returning on both sides of the ball to be able to duplicate last year’s success.

It all starts with quarterback Cheno Navarrette.

Last year, Navarrette rushed for 2,088 yards and 34 touchdowns while passing for 1,411 yards and nine touchdowns, earning All-State honors.

“Cheno is a big part of what we do, offensively,” Staugh said.

His target, wide receiver Nathan Wessels is also back as well as running back Cole Pittman.

“(Pittman) will be the guy this year,” Staugh said. “We feel like we have a chance to be explosive on offense. It’s one of those things that you have to go out and execute.”

On defense, the Loboes welcome back David Carrasco who compiled 133 tackles as well as Alex Palmateer who had 135 tackles and one interception.

The strength for this year’s team will be its culture and speed.

“I think one of our biggest strength is our culture and who we are as far as a program and how we do things around here and the tradition around here,” Staugh said. “I think we’re relatively fast. They’re fast and physical. Weakness-wise, I wish we were a little bigger at times but everyone probably does. They’re great kids and they work hard. They’re very coachable and they do what we tell them. We feel good about it.”

For Staugh, the program has gradually gotten better under his watch.

His first season saw the team struggle to a 2-8 overall, 2-4 in district, record in 2019.

In 2020, the team improved to 4-7 (2-2) before going 9-4 (1-3) in 2021.

“I think our excitement level from these past couple of years has been really good,” Staugh said. “Our guys enjoy being in our program. We do everything we can to treat them the right way and take care of them and keep them organized and efficient. They’re ready to go. You always have to battle through adversity but they’re excited for it and ready to get the season started.”