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2011 SPORTS PREVIEW: Mustangs continue to improve, look to compete against district foes
Nixon-Smiley Head Coach Carlton McKinney addresses his players following a blistering hot morning practice session. The temperature was 100 degrees outside before the team finished its morning session.
NIXON -- The Nixon-Smiley Mustang football team has been fighting for respect for years. The team has had trouble with student participation in the past, and also has had a number of coaching changes over the years. But under new Head Coach and Athletic Director Carlton McKinney, the team is settling in nicely.
This season will mark the second full year for McKinney as the head coach. He completely changed the Mustangs’ approach to the game, and those changes are starting to produce results.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Mustangs will continue with what they did last year. Nixon-Smiley likes to run the ball, and will use the passing game to break things up and keep opposing defenders honest.
“We were a lot better in 2010 than we were in ’09,” McKinney said, “and I believe we will be even better this year.”
McKinney said his players have a better understanding of how the offense works, and that gives them some flexibility.
“Now we can make some changes on the fly,” McKinney said. “The kids can make those adjustments and be confident about what they are doing.”
McKinney explained that there would be some changes on defense this year, and said he believes it will be better for the kids, giving them a little more of a “cushion” within which to work. He said the system began being worked in at the tail end of last season, and feels his players are doing well with it now.
“It plays well into our personnel,” McKinney said.
When it comes to season goals, McKinney said his biggest focus has been on getting his team to come together and to always give it their best.
“Our motto, if you will, is ‘if you don’t believe -- you don’t belong,’” McKinney said. “If we are going to have success, we are going to have to work together, and to believe we can win.”
That way of thinking appears to be working for Nixon-Smiley, and McKinney said he sees the kids coming together. He gave a great deal of credit for that to his seniors, as well.
The Mustangs’ greatest team strength this season is likely to be its experience. Nixon-Smiley returns 17 players with good varsity experience, including nine starters on offense and nine on defense. McKinney feels good about the Mustangs’ chances, assuming his players remain injury-free.
“Injuries could really hurt us,” McKinney said. “We really aren’t as deep as I would like us to be.”
When asked about Nixon-Smiley’s “players to watch,” McKinney was quick to mention running back Joe Medina. Medina rumbled his way to 1,300 yards last season, and McKinney said he has “gotten stronger and faster” since then. Alex Hernandez is also expected to have another big year for the Mustangs. He ran for more than 800 yards last season and was the team’s leading tackler. Quarterback Jaime Moreno is back under center for the Mustangs, and fans can also expect big contributions from Michael Martinez, Dylan Robinson, Miguel Hernandez, and Damian Perez.
“We do have some key guys back in those skill positions,” McKinney said with a smile. “It’s always nice when that happens.”
The district picture will remain the same for the Mustangs, and McKinney is happy with the level of competition. He knows Poth will still be strong, as will Karnes City, Dilley, and Three Rivers.
“Stockdale has a lot of kids coming back too,” McKinney said. “It’s going to be a tough schedule.”
McKinney then said that while he felt Poth and Karnes City were head and shoulders above the rest of the district last year, he views the teams as a little more evenly matched this season.
“We are ready to go,” McKinney said. “The coaches have been excited for a long time. We are happy with the attitude of our kids, and I’ll take our chances against anybody.”
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