CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Following a 2-7 season in 2020, the Carroll Tigers put in a lot of work in the off-season.
Now, they feel they are coming into the season improved from a year ago.
“We got a lot stronger over the off-season, I think we had a great off-season,” Carroll head coach Juan Rodriguez said. “That kind of filtered into the summer, our summer program had high numbers, we had a lot of kids come out for strength and conditioning this summer, and we continued to build on what we started during the off-season. So, a lot of great things from our kids who have put in the time, and committed themselves to getting better.”
Rodriguez is preparing for his fourth season as Carroll's head coach. He said this team is unique, as it will rely heavily on underclassmen, which make up about 75% of the roster. Rodriguez said the juniors will be especially relied upon this year, and he believes they will be able to handle it after last season.
“Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, we went with about 14, 15 sophomores on varsity, and we kind of had to do that throughout last year, and that gave a lot of experience to those kids,” he said. “I think it’s going to pay dividends for us, those kids got great experience last year, were able to win some games.”
The juniors are ready to take on the responsibility they need to this season.
“[I feel] really good, not nervous at all, I think that my class is ready for this,” said junior quarterback Benny Hernandez. “Some of us have been a Carroll Tiger since we were little, and ready to play on varsity, and ready to show people what we’ve got.”
The team's unity is providing it with confidence heading into the season. .
“They work well together, they support one another, they pick each other up when practices are tough, and they work each other to get better, and that’s what we want to do,” Rodriguez said.
The team's close relationship has helped it heading into the season.
“There’s energy within the groups, no matter what, it’s never really bad," junior lineman Isaiah Riojas said. "Everyone brings everybody up, and everyone has each other’s backs. No matter what, we’re like brothers, this is a whole family… a crazy one, to say the least,."
The team's strong summer workouts have bolstered their confidence for the upcoming season. Carroll's 7-on-7 team made the state tournament for the first time in the program's history in June, playing against some of the top teams in the state in College Station.
“I think a lot of it is basically confidence in our kids, our kids understand that they can compete, not just at this level, but they can compete with kids from all over the state of Texas," Rodriguez said. "I think that was big for our program moving forward, just knowing we’ve got some confidence in our program, and that was built from the summer."
The summer work provided a foundation the Tigers can build on heading into the season.
“Just going up there, and going against the talent of all these other schools in the state of Texas, just really helped us see what we need to improve on,” Hernandez said.
To the 2021 opponents of the Tigers, the players said be ready for them this season.
“We’re going to be fierce no matter what, we’re going to keep the intensity high,” Riojas said.
“We don’t care who you are, what your record was last year, we’re coming at you,” Hernandez said.
Carroll's first opponent is Eagle Pass as the two teams meet Friday night. The Tigers will also play Sinton, Victoria East, Victoria West, Flour Bluff, Gregory-Portland, and fellow CCISD schools Ray, Moody, Veterans Memorial, and King.