Football: Mavericks improving up front
Pasadena Memorial coach John Snelson said injuries hurt his team more than anything else last season.
But that's not really a problem that can be fixed in spring football.
Instead, the Mavericks spent three weeks from May 4 to May 26, when they held their annual spring game, focusing on improving in areas that are always important before heading into the summer.
"Going into spring ball were always trying to solidify our offensive and defensive lines and work on finding some depth," Snelson said.
"Depth is always a problem for us. We always have to play a couple of kids on both sides of the football and spring football practice is our way to try to see if those No. 2s, No. 3s are developing."
Depth also can help in the event of an injury to a starter, but some players, like star RB Thaddeus Stewart, simply can't be replaced. Unfortunately, the Mavs were forced to try anyway last month.
"Thaddeus tore his ACL Week 9 of the season and then he tore it again about a month and a half ago, doing his rehab, so we're not going to have him next (season)," Snelson said.
"Thaddeus had his surgery about (three) weeks ago so we're just having to move on."
Stewart, with 4.3 speed, is one of the most electric and powerful backs in the Houston area, and his loss is a big one. Also an elite sprinter, Stewart's now focusing on a return for track next spring.
Nick Hernandez and Chris Cargile, who both will be seniors next season, worked out a tailback this spring. Hernandez was a varsity safety last season and Cargile was the junior varsity starting tailback.
Snelson said they're likely to split carries this year, and Hernandez is expected to continue seeing time in the defensive backfield.
Greg Gallardo will be back under center.
He took over for the graduated Ethan Dillon, who suffered a broken leg against Clements, in the third game of the season and went 4-2 as the starter, then split time with Dillon after his return in Week 9.
The senior-to-be led the Mavs to wins over Texas City and Deer Park, which they beat for the first time in school history, and losses to North Shore and Dobie.
"He did a good job," Snelson said. "He has a really good grasp of our offense.
"He doesn't have just a big arm, but he knows where to go with it and does a good job in getting us in the right place off the line of scrimmage, and checking our protections, things like that."
Snelson said Gallardo worked on getting the ball out quicker this spring. He knows where to go but doesn't always have the fastest release.
As for the lines, several returning players looked good this spring, including center Tyler Schoonover, guards Taylor McCoy and Doug Holder, defensive tackle Mark McNeil and end Luke Melendez.
"We're still looking for some of those other spots," Snelson said. "We've had quite a few kids playing pretty well but nothing's really solidified in there yet."
Dorian Johnson, who will be a junior, won the starting job at tight end. He was graduated tight end Daniel Talavera's backup last season.
Also, Justin Costa and Ahrmon McLeod, who both saw time at fullback as sophomores, will see more time in the upcoming season, both of them at fullback and linebacker on the defensive side.
But there are plenty of questions still to answer.
"We still have some issues off in our secondary," Snelson said. "We're still looking. But we're going to use our 7-on-7 time this year to keep on working on that and we're going to be OK."
The Mavericks have only one 7-on-7 state qualifying tournament left this month. They'll be at the Texas City SQT this weekend, their final chance to qualify for the state tournament next month.
They also played in the Houston Texans' and Manvel's SQTs, failing to advance out of pool play both times.
Gallardo is quarterbacking the team, with Derek Lee and Brandon Thomas as his top receivers.
"We always want to play just as much as we dang can," Snelson said. "That's really not our forte, we're not going to throw it around a bunch, but it's always important when you go out there.
"You want to win."
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