SAN ANGELO, TX-- They say there’s no place like home. For the Central Bobcats, that is exactly the case.
It’s safe to say the Bobcats love playing at home. After their week 1 win over Killeen Shoemaker, Central extended their regular season home win streak to 24.
“We do have a home field advantage, we feel like,” said Central head coach Brent Davis, “and we play good at home. So, anytime we have a home game, we’re excited.”
Central didn’t always have that success, however, and homecoming wasn’t celebrated quite like it is today.
Davis said Central “hadn’t won very many homecoming games” prior to his arrival in 2009. Central’s tenth year coach added that his team “has won several” homecoming games since losing their 2009 installment.
“It’s a big deal,” Davis said of homecoming. “We have a lot of alumni here that went to Central. It’s a great high school and a lot of people have pride in it. Homecoming is always a really big crowd. Obviously you want to play good at homecoming; you want to play good in your own stadium.”
While the Bobcats lost their starting quarterback and dropped their first regular season game in almost three years on that stint on the road, things are looking up as Central returns home.
In the Bobcat’s 37-22 loss to Cedar Park on Friday, Davis saw growth and “nervousness, like you’d expect” from his sophomore quarterback Malachi Brown.
“It was the first time he knew he was going to have to go out and play without it being a spur of the moment deal, you know,” Davis said. “I thought he settled down really good. I thought we played a lot better in the second half. We were playing a really good football team. I think that showed we have a lot to work on, not just quarterback-wise.”
Central, who trailed 35-6 at one point last week, had their comeback sparked by Jashon Hall’s 60-yard interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery that Tristan Lopez took 32 yards the other way for a score.
After missing the spring and season opener due to an injury, Hall has quickly stepped up as a leader in the secondary. Having Hall step up like he has is “huge” for the Bobcats, according to Davis.
“We got him back for Del Rio and he played really well there,” Davis said. “He had a big pick-six [at Cedar Park] and had some other pass break-ups that were really nice plays that saved some big plays for us. So, obviously, he sparked us. I think it’s going to be like that every week.”
Working to Hall’s strength at cornerback is his size. The 6-foot-4 corner has proven to be a legitimate threat in coverage and rushing the passer, which Davis expects him to show “every week.”
“He’s a real long, rangy guy that’s fast,” Davis said. “That’s why we have him back there. I think you’re going to see more of him shining on Friday nights.”
While the Bobcats are better for their test at Cedar Park, they aren’t out of the woods as El Paso Pebble Hills comes to town.
The Spartans, who Central beat in the playoffs last year, are riding high at 3-0 in their third year of varsity competition.
Davis and his team know what they’re getting this Friday.
“They’re a lot like us,” Davis said. “Coach [Mark] Torres does a really, really good job. I’ve known him for a really long time. He’s been out in El Paso ever since I’ve been here. They do a good job. It’s a brand new program. I think it’s four or five years old and they’ve already been in the playoffs and had a good run...They’re one of the best El Paso teams there is.”
Pebble Hills runs a spread offense with usually one running back, much like the Bobcats. The Spartans also have a similar defensive front to the Bobcats with four down linemen. Davis hopes that familiarity helps the prep for Friday’s game.
“We’re real similar to each other in the ways we try to scheme people,” Davis said. “So, it’s a good game for us. We’re familiar with it and I’m sure they feel the same way.”
Central will need to find a way to score on offense moving forward. They had just one offensive touchdown in their loss to Cedar Park.
“We’ve got to get better with that, obviously,” Davis said. “We can’t win games if we don’t score. We’re going to play teams that, like I said Friday about Cedar Park, they’re going to get some points. You can play great defense and they’re still going to score some points. So, we’ve got to score with them and have some tight ballgames, keep them under 30 and our goal is to always be over 30. So, if we can do that more times than not, I think we’ll have success.”
To do that in Central’s offense, Brown will need to continue the upward progression he showed in the second half of last week’s game.
Davis said he wants to see Brown “run our offense the way he knows how to run it” in his first home start.
“And we’ve retooled a few things to where we’re going to try to fit it to his strengths,” Davis added. “But, he’ll get better...I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. I have all the confidence in our football team. We played a real good Cedar Park team and they put it on us. I mean, they whipped us. There’s no doubt about that.”
Davis hopes the experience his young team gained in that game will expedite their growth.
“We’re a young team that’s gotta learn,” he said. “We’ve gotta learn from that. Next time we approach somebody like that, have more urgency to play the game better, have a quarterback who will have more experience, which he will have. Those kinds of things are going to go a long way.”
One focal point for the Bobcats is their offensive line. At the start of the season, it looked to be the best position group for the Bobcats with four of five returning starters. During fall camp Rowdy Garza had to leave the team. Davis said that departure "hurt" the Bobcats. Since then, they have been trying to find a combination up front that fits.
"Ever since that, we've had to just kind of find our way," Davis said. "We're trying to get a freshman ready and that's hard to do. Then we just don't have a lot of depth at the other positions. So, we're playing with it. We're looking at it. Obviously, studying film when we get a game like on Saturday morning. We're looking. We're trying to find the right combination and we're going to keep tweaking it until we do."
The Bobcats take on Pebble Hills at 7:00 p.m. this Friday at San Angelo Stadium.