“Next man up,” is a motto heard widely in sports but one that will define this year’s Brawley Union High Wildcat football squad. With 17 seniors lost to graduation this past season, and some offseason injuries to key positions, the Wildcats are as anxious as ever to get out on the field and test their mettle.
“They know they’re not the biggest group but it’s given them a chip on their shoulder to see what they can do and what their capable of,” said Brawley High Head Coach Jon Self of the squad’s mentality.
While the wildcats return eight starters total on offense and defense, they do have an array of players who, while not starting on last year’s squad, did get some playing time, and will have an opportunity to solidify their positions on the field.
Returning starting offensive players are senior running back Damian Reyes, senior lineman Daniel Caloca, and Nathan Torrez who serves as somewhat of a utility belt for the Wildcat offense, playing multiple positions when needed. This year, that will be tested as Torrez leads the offense as quarterback in his senior year of Brawley football.
Caloca will look to lead the offensive line as its most experienced player but will have some help from fellow senior Javier Martinez. Martinez was injured in the preseason last year but was in the running for a starting position at the time. Junior Thomas Rubio and senior Sebastian Torrez will also help anchor down the linemen positions.
While not starters offensively on last year’s team, seniors Blake Krigbaum and Adrian Chavez contributed to the wildcat backfield threat and hope to up the ante on it this year. Krigbaum serves as a power back with quickness while the Wildcats will look to Chavez’s speed to beat defenders in one-on-one positions and around the corners. Damien Reyes will be the most experienced ball carrier and has the ability to catch the ball out the backfield and turn upfield in a hurry.
“We are a younger team with a lot of guys starting on varsity for their first time,” said Reyes of being the grizzled veteran, having begun his varsity career as a speedy sophomore sharing the backfield with upperclassmen.
On defense, the Wildcats welcome back five starters including Chandler Self, Blake Krigbaum, Omar Chavez, Nathan Torrez and Adrian Chavez.
The Wildcats will line up with Self and Krigbaum, and senior and JJ Gutierrez rounds out the linebacking core. Omar Chavez will return at defensive line.
At safety, Nathan Torrez and Damian Reyes will be called upon to stop big plays down the field. At the cornerback positions, Adrian Chavez and senior JJ Fernandez will look to lock down opposing receivers.
“I’m looking most forward to being a role model for my team on Friday nights since I’m now a senior,” said Chavez, who has been on the varsity squad since his sophomore season.
“My personal goal this season is to repeat first team all-league defense and help make the team stronger,” added Chavez.
Although last year’s close IVL race didn’t go the Wildcats way, they are looking to make some noise and a run at this year’s ultra-competitive league play capped off by the 76th annual bell game against rivals the Central Union High Spartans scheduled November 1 at Cal Jones field in El Centro.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the bell game the most,” said Reyes, who like the other seniors on this year’s squad is hoping to be the team to bring the bell back, as Central has won it the last two seasons.
“Every year we have the same goals. We want to win in the offseason, preseason, win the league and go as deep as we can in the playoffs,” said coach Self. “Go, Wildcats!” he added.