Special to the PRESS
Much to the delight of many Laguna Madre fans, Monty Stumbaugh isn’t going anywhere.
The successful Port Isabel Tarpons head football coach/athletic director was awarded a two-year contract extension during a meeting of Point Isabel ISD trustees on Tuesday night, the coach confirmed. The deal keeps Stumbaugh in Tarpon blue through 2015 and it was a relief off the coach’s shoulders.
“We’re excited to be here at least two more years,” Stumbaugh said. “We’ve always loved it here and I love these kids to death. We were already working hard toward next year, but it’s a great way to start our offseason.”
Stumbaugh came to PI in 2001 and has totaled an 89-53 record with 10 playoff appearances, including a trip to the 3A state semifinals in 2003 and most recently a trip to the state quarterfinals with the 2012 squad.
Despite last season’s success, some felt it was unclear whether Stumbaugh would return. However, all of that was taken care of by the school board and the veteran coach was assured two more years in PI.
“They (school board) have faith in what we do here,” Stumbaugh said. “They like what we’ve been doing and we’re thankful for the chance to continue doing great things here.”
Tarpon quarterback Isaiah Martinez, who will be a senior next season, said he was relieved to hear of the extension and added that the continuity under Stumbaugh was important to him and his teammates.
“I’m glad that he’s staying. He’s a good coach and I wouldn’t want (to play for) another coach,” Martinez said. “It would have been hard because if we had another coach we would probably would run different plays and move people all around and it would be hard on all of us.”
Although Port Isabel has missed the playoffs only twice under Stumbaugh’s watch, many wondered if the Tarpons could produce a deep playoff run, something they hadn’t done since 2004’s third round trip.
The 2012 season answered the critics.
Big Blue began the year 1-2 after losses to Brownsville Veterans Memorial and Raymondville, a late fourth-quarter defeat.
However, the Tarpons won their next five games, withstanding injuries on the offensive line, quarterback and running back.
In week nine, Port Isabel thumped Rio Hondo 36-7 to claim a share of the 32-3A title and quickly dispatched Lyford in bi-district, 40-20.
That’s when the season became extra special.
In a driving rain that pushed back the game’s start, PI defeated Sinton in the area round 53-26 at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville. That enabled them to the third round, where the Tarpons played an overtime classic with Geronimo Navarro.
In Calallen, PI faced an early 13-0 hole vs. Navarro before rallying to take the lead. Later, they retook the lead in the fourth quarter before trailing again.
Trailing by eight points with four minutes to go, the Tarpons mounted “The Drive,” marching 95 yards and tying the game with one second left in regulation. That forced overtime and PI scored first then held the Panthers to advance with a 35-28 win.
Though the Tarpons fell to Bellville in the state quarters, the season was naturally deemed a successful one. Now, Stumbaugh and his group will have another go at it. Though they must replace nine total starters, there are some familiar names back for their senior seasons.
“Now we can put this behind us. The kids are excited and want to go even further next year,” Stumbaugh said. “We’ve got a good nucleus coming back and we wanna do it again. Our goals are the same: Win a district championship, play at Thanksgiving, play December football and play for a state championship.”