By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Port Isabel Tarpon coaches and players alike have been looking forward to the 2015 football season since the 2014 season ended on a series of low notes six months ago. Head P.I. football coach and athletic director Monty Stumbaugh will be out of his office after this Wednesday and won’t return until July 22nd. Accordingly, your football reporter took one last opportunity recently to get his thoughts on the upcoming season, and how preparations for this season are influenced by how the last one ended.
“Our kids realize we didn’t do what we needed to do,” Stumbaugh said last week. “They know we didn’t finish well – started out pretty well but we didn’t finish it.”
A young Tarpon football squad won all five of its non-district games last year before starting the district season off with a 61-7 road win over Progreso. Losses in three of the last four games gave Port Isabel a 2-3 district record and the Tarpons went into the playoffs as the 4th seed from District 16-4A. They lost 52-22 to Sinton in their bi-district playoff game in Kingsville.
“I think our kids are hungry,” Stumbaugh said. “Last year I don’t think we had that hunger. They kinda’ lived off of what happened before. If you’re not very hungry it means you’re satisfied, and if you’re satisfied that’s not good.”
What happened before was that the team had its first undefeated regular season in 2013 since 1994 and was 12-0 before dropping a 21-14 decision to La Vernia in the regional semi-final round of the playoffs. The year before that, the Tarpons advanced to the regional final with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win against Geronimo-Navarro.
The head man likes what he has seen this year in the returning players and believes they have the right mind set. “They realize you have to be coachable. You have to do the things you’re taught to do. You have to put in the time and stay eligible. Our kids have had a really good off-season and they’ve worked really, really hard. They know what’s expected of them.”
The two longest regular season road trips last season came against district foes Corpus Christi West Oso and Orange Grove. The Tarpons beat the former, 42-24, and went into the Orange Grove game with a 2-1 district record. The Bulldogs won 33-7 and a 6-0 loss at home to Raymondville in the district finale sent the team into the playoffs with a losing league record. The Orange Grove and West Oso games will both be at Tarpon Stadium in October.
“We fumbled the ball (against Raymondville) four times inside the 15-yard line,” Stumbaugh said. “You can’t do those things.”
Stumbaugh fully realizes that no one, when it comes to district opponents, can be overlooked, not even the lowly Red Ants of Progreso, who have never beaten Port Isabel in 30 tries. “It’s a tough district and we’ve got to be ready every week. Our goal is to bring the district championship back to Port Isabel. I’m circling (on the calendar) all five district games because that’s what gets you to season three (playoffs).
The head man plans to just get out of town for a few weeks and spend time with the family before reporting to coaching school next month. Football, he says, is never very far from his mind. “No, I can’t put it out of my mind completely and that’s not my goal. I’m always thinking of ways we can adapt and adjust things and tweak things. I plan to read a couple of books.”
The first day of football practice is set for August 3rd. The 2015 season will open with a home contest against RGC Grulla on August 28th.
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