By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Port Isabel High Tarpon football players Stephen L. Martinez and Raul Villarreal were named Tuesday to the AP Class 4A All-State Football Team.
Villarreal was named to the first-team defense and Martinez made the second-team offense. Villarreal played defensive end and Martinez, who played both ways, made the list as an offensive tackle.
“It’s a great honor for them and a nice surprise,” head P.I. football coach Monty Stumbaugh said Wednesday.
The two linemen helped the Tarpons to a 6-3 regular season and playoff berth.
“Defensively, Raul had a really good year,” Coach Stumbaugh told the Press this week. “This is probably the best he’s played since I’ve known Raul. I think he grew up a lot this year.”
“Stephen, I thought, was our most consistent offensive lineman and defensive lineman,” Stumbaugh said. “This year he played both ways. He’s one of those kids you think of as student-athlete. He’s Academic All-State.”
Stumbaugh recognized the fact that the circumstances are different for senior players who are playing their final season of football. “He (Villarreal) had a whole different attitude this year than he did last year. He played with a sense of purpose and was like a man on a mission. He played the game with a passion this year.”
Martinez is also a senior. “He’ll be there every day and give you everything he’s got. He was in the weight room every day, all during the summer. He did what it took to be a good football player. He was out there running when it was hot. He just got bigger and better.”
“He (Villarreal) gave great effort all year. I don’t really remember him resting on any plays. What made Raul stand out was the way he played the game and it bothered him if he lost.”
“What makes a good lineman is he goes till the whistle blows,” Stumbaugh said. “That’s what he (Martinez) did – blocked till he heard the whistle. He was downfield, he was ripping through and taking it to the next level, and you have big runs when you have kids that do that.”
Martinez graded out for the season at 95 percent. He had 15 downfield touchdown blocks, 50 pancake blocks, and did not give up a quarterback sack all season.
Villarreal was the team’s leading tackler for the season with 77 total tackles. He had seven quarterback sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered a fumble, and got seven tackles for loss.
Football coaches everywhere count on their senior players to be leaders, and these two players definitely provided senior leadership.
“We had some ups and downs this year,” Stumbaugh said. “People leave, people quit, or people we had to take off. When some of those things happened guys like Stephen and Raul stepped up. And these seniors – we had 15 this year – they all did a great job.”
“We tell the seniors every year that it’s your team. How do you want to be remembered? These two just carried on the tradition we have here of having good offensive linemen and defensive players. It just shows the good things that happen when you work hard.”
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