The Permian and Odessa High boys soccer teams have more in common than some might think.
After graduating large senior classes from a year ago, a few veteran players remain on each side to captain and guide their respective teams.
Surrounding such players as Odessa High’s Chris Ramos and Permian’s Irving Martinez are a wealth of young talent that’s now forced to step up when it matters most.
District 2-6A play begins tonight with the Panthers traveling to face Midland High at Grande Communications Stadium and the Bronchos hosting Wolfforth Frenship at Ratliff Stadium. Both games have scheduled 7:30 p.m. starts.
“We’ve improved a lot with more chemistry on the field,” Odessa High sophomore midfielder Jesus Montes said. “We’ve been like a family together.”
Coming into district play, Odessa High (8-6-1) has won its last four games and six of its last seven.
“They know they have improved every game,” Odessa High head coach Eliseo Ortiz said. “It seems like every game we’ve chosen one or two things to work on and for the most part have done it better when we get to play that next game.
“I think they’re ready for it. They’re hopeful and I think they’re excited, especially to have all those games at home.”
Opposite of last year, when the Bronchos had their last five district games in their hometown, they have four of their last five games on the road this year. The Bronchos play their first five district games at home.
It’s Permian that plays the last half of its 10-game district schedule at home, while traveling out of town for four of its first five.
“Honestly I think for a lot of teams, it’s easier to play away in some ways,” Ortiz said. “For a lot of high school kids, it’s more pressure to play at home in front of their peers and family members … it could really could go either way.”
Both Ortiz and Permian head coach Luis Carmona are confident in their teams no matter the venue. The Panthers and Bronchos have two crosstown-rivalry matchups in district play — Feb. 16 and March 16.
“I think it’s going to be a tough district all the way across,” Carmona said. “I think it’s going to be very close. I don’t think there’s a team that stands out above everybody else, it’s just who’s going to be on that day for the 80 minutes.”
Most notable among the other four District 2-6A teams is Wolfforth Frenship, which enters district play a perfect 14-0-0.
“That first game is going to be very challenging against Frenship,” Ortiz said. “If we can get a good result, I think that’s what going to set the tone for our season.”
Permian is also looking to come out of the gate strong in district play. The Panthers (6-6-0) have been derailed by injuries in district the past two seasons and missed the playoffs.
Now, with youth invigorating the program, the team has a hop in its step not seen at Permian in a few years.
“We’ve improved tremendously,” Permian sophomore goalkeeper Carson Roberts said. “Since the early tournaments, as a team we’ve gotten comfortable with each other, started to play aggressive and started to have fun most importantly. When you have fun, you just automatically play better and for us, it’s been a big help.”
Carmona believes his team has become more versatile as the season has gone on. He moved Zach Whisenant to defensive midfield and he’s given the Panthers a spark since the change. Isaac Herrera switched to center back and has given the team an improvement with balls in the air.
That’s just two examples on a majority underclassmen Permian squad.
“Our freshmen are going to have to grow up quick and carry a lot of the load,” Carmona said. “I think we have two or three starting seniors depending on who we’re playing and what formation we’re playing.”
Permian has already faced some of the toughest competition in the state this season in Southlake Carroll, Arlington Bowie and El Paso Montwood.
Carmona feels as if his team held its own against those teams and has shown that when at its best, it’s hard to stop.
“They’re not looking at it as a job, as with last year they were looking at it as something that they had to do for 80 minutes, not that they wanted to do it,” Carmona said. “Now, I think we feel comfortable, even if we go 1-nothing, 2-nothing, that we’re going to come back.”