By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 25, 2016) — Dublin and Hico have a rivalry bred not just on proximity but also respect.
And it starts at the top, with their amicable head coaches.
“Coach (Keith) Wood does an excellent job with his kids, and their program is so consistent that it’s like no one graduates from year-to-year. It’s like they still have the same players at every position every time we play them. If I didn’t know better I’d say they must be taking them out in kindergarten and teaching them the wing-T, because they know it so well,” says Dublin head coach Bob Cervetto, and the respect is thrown back his way from Wood in Hico.
“We know they are dang sure going to be well coached because Cervetto and those guys do a great job and have really turned that program around,” says Wood. “You can see in scrimmages where players who are back have improved quite a bit, especially their quarterback, and that’s a sign of great coaching.”
Cervetto jokes that its because both head coaches are graduates of McMurry University in Abilene.
“He ought to be a good coach, he graduated from McMury,” Cervetto says heartily of Wood. “We knew each other prior to me coming (to Dublin) six years ago, but now we play each other, we see each other at events like track meets and volleyball games, and we have a positive, friendly relationship. We’re just two guys trying to do what’s best for kids and give them a chance to see how much potential they have, not just in football, but in life.”
Their teams tangle to open the 2016 season Friday evening. Kickoff on neutral ground at Tarleton Memorial Stadium in Stephenville is set for 7:30 p.m.
Hico was set to return six starters on both sides of the ball, but one of those on each side was lost the second week of preseason practice. Senior quarterback and defensive back Parker Wood – the son of Coach Wood – suffered another torn ACL in his knee and is out for the season.
The Tigers have turned to promising but inexperienced sophomore Bailey Johnson.
“We’ve had to scale it back a little bit after we had planned to open it up some,” said Wood. “But we were always going to be predominantly in the wing-T with a power run game and play action passing off that.”
Johnson is surrounded by experienced weapons in 1,000 yard rusher Ethan Warren and 800-yard rusher Jacob Smith. Cooper Conlee had 600 yards receiving last season, and three starters – Preston Ramsey, Garrett Turner and Jared Allman – lead the offensive line.
“Those kids have done a great job of rallying around (Johnson),” said Wood. “If something goes wrong or we have a bobble, our kids are pretty quick to pat him on the back and say don’t worry let’s move on.”
Defensive lineman Guillermo Zuniga had 107 tackles and 12 sacks last year. Also back on that side of the ball is defensive end Cameron Matthews, who made 88 tackles and six sacks in 2015.
Moore passed for four touchdowns and rushed for one in Dublin’s scrimmage against Frost last week. His primary targets are receivers Bryson Fowler and Trask Brown. Gabe Garcia is another key skill player, while Jose Villalobos and Juan Pablo Garcia anchor the offensive line.
Villalobos and Jacob Riley, 55 tackles including 5.5 for loss last season, lead the Dublin defensive front. Junior linebacker Gabe Coronado, junior athlete Josh Hanes and junior running back Keith Wright are other players to watch.
Wood was impressed with Dublin QB Moore in film from scrimmage play.
“The quarterback has the ability to create big plays with his arm, and he showed that in the scrimmages,” Wood explained. “In our scrimmage with Clifton we did a good job for the most part defensively, but then we allowed a couple big plays. We have to be more consistent against a good quarterback.”
Cervetto worries about Hico’s quickness.
“They always have guys that can run over there,” Cervetto said. “It’s so critical that we wrap up and get a bunch of hats to the football, because those Hico kids will cut back on you and break a big play in a hurry.”
Cervetto says the play of the offensive and defensive lines could be the deciding factor.
“Taking care of the football is obviously important, and the kicking game obviously is important,” he said. “But when it comes down to it, I think the game will be won on the offensive and defensive line. We have to come off the ball and be aggressive because I know that’s what Hico will do.”