CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Flour Bluff football team had a historic 2021 season, and was the last team in the Coastal Bend to play a game. With last-second wins against Gregory-Portland and Veterans Memorial, the Hornets made their first-ever state semi-final game, where they eventually lost to Katy Paetow.
This year, the Hornets are hoping to repeat what they did last year.
“It’s an opportunity to go out and prove we can continue to raise the bar at Flour Bluff,” said head coach Chris Steinbruck.
In addition to the experience of playing in those big games, deep playoff runs in 2020 and 2021 gave the returning players more time to practice and get better.
“They’re getting an extra four and five weeks of practice throughout every year, that pays dividends down the road, and we’re hoping that will do it this year for us,” Steinbruck said.
The biggest challenge this year: the Hornets graduated 21 seniors last year, including starting quarterback Nash Villegas, and key defensive players like Johnny Dickson, Jacob Rose, and Ben Escamilla.
However, Steinbruck is confident in the guys who are set to step up and replace those players.
“We’ve got a bunch of really good talented guys, and it’s just finding those young kids to step up and just fill those few spots that came open when those seniors graduated,” he said.
One of those players is senior lineman Dylan Shaw. Shaw is committed to Texas Tech, and is preparing to step up to fill the leadership role on the line left by Dickson, who is now a freshman at Virginia Tech.
“Now that he’s gone, I realize, next guy up, I’ve gotta keep the guys in check,” Shaw said.
Shaw and his fellow offensive lineman will be tasked with protecting an important individual: sophomore Jayden Paluseo, who is slated to be the starting quarterback to replace Villegas.
“I think he’s really accurate, a great thrower,” Shaw said about Paluseo. “I think he’ll do great, he’s got a good o-line protecting, full of seniors, we know what we’re doing, we can protect him, give him time.”
Paluseo is much different in stature from Villegas, who stands around 6’6” and weighs more than 200 pounds. With his smaller frame, Paluseo also provides some more quickness, and although he is young, he has some varsity playing experience, and worked with Villegas last season.
“He was able to practice everyday with Nash, and he got a ton of reps in practice,” Steinbruck said. “Nash, his leadership, he did a great job teaching Jayden a bunch, and we’re excited about him.”
Senior receiver Wyatt Elwood said, despite being only a few practices in to the new season, Palseo’s chemistry is already there with his receiving corps.
“All summer we’ve been working on routes, throwing the ball, catching the ball. It’s definitely there,” Elwood said.
Elwood has confidence Paulseo will excel as the Hornet’s QB, but also knows in case the sophomore ever needs help, the experienced offensive players around him will be there to assist.
“I think he’s got it, he’s pretty mature, but if he every needs help, he’ll find one of us,” Elwood said. “He’ll be just fine.”
The Hornets will play their first game action next week in a scrimmage against King High School, and their first game comes on the road on Aug. 25 at Boerne.
“I’m hoping we can make it further [than last year],’ Shaw said. “Make it past round five, make it to state.”