New mentality, key returners bring optimism to Brazoswood (2022)

CLUTE — First-year Brazoswood head football coach Joe Cary has a saying that serves as the team’s mantra this season.

“Burn the boats.”

The meaning behind it is to burn the past — including the talk about entering the 10th straight season of not sniffing the playoffs and that Brazoswood can’t compete with the rest of the district.

Burn the past and start anew.

That mentality has become infectious at Slade Field as Brazoswood’s varsity players took to the field Monday for its first August practice ahead of a 2022 season filled with cautious optimism.

At the forefront of it all is Cary — who was hired at B’wood in March after spending the last two seasons at Hondo. The new coach got his feet wet in spring football — which helped him and his staff get a good idea of where his team was and where they needed to go as the offseason progressed.

“I thought we had a good spring football season. We were able to get a lot done and piece together our team,” Cary said. “We didn’t get to have a traditional offseason, but I think we were able to get our core values installed.

“I think we have had a good summer. About 98 percent of our kids have been here almost every day all summer.”

By now, players know what is expected from them — possess a sense of urgency, have a great attitude and give great effort — now it will be about fine-tuning the little things, Cary said.

While a new coaching staff is in place — including a few holdovers from previous head coach Danny Youngs’ regime — the team will have to rebuild a few positions. Still, it also brings back experience in other key spots, including starting quarterback Isaac Ponce.

The incoming senior has an entire varsity season under his belt last year.

He was 82-of-157 passing for 1,105 yards, 52.2 completion percentage, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ponce also showed off his dual-threat capabilities with 480 rushing yards on 26 carries and six scores.

“When I got here, Isaac was, like most of them, a little leary of the new coach,” Cary said. “But Isaac and I have developed a good relationship, and Isaac and coach (Cameron) DeBesse have developed a good chemistry.

“I challenge Isaac almost daily to be a great leader, not just on the football field, but in the classroom, in the school building, on the weekends and everywhere he is or everywhere he goes — everyone in town knows that he is the quarterback of the Brazoswood Buccaneers.”

Ponce shined in a few games last season, especially early on when the team raced out to a 4-1 record. In one of those games, a 20-19 win against Baytown Sterling, Ponce was 20-of-31 passing for 325 yards in his second career varsity game. He also threw three touchdowns in a 36-27 loss to Clear Brook in Week 7.

“His skill set is going to fit in very well with the offense we are running,” Cary said. “And we are running this offense because we have a quarterback that can do it.”

That offense, Cary described for lack of a better word, is a power spread. With Ponce and his complement of skill players around him, the team can throw multiple looks at a defense, and Ponce’s dual-threat skills make him an optimal choice for Cary’s offense.

“We are going to be in the shotgun, based out of a two-back, three-receiver look, we’ll jump out of some four-wide stuff, but we are going to pride ourselves on running the ball,” Cary said. “But when you have a quarterback like Isaac with some of the receivers, we will have the ability to throw the ball down the field.

“I think Isaac can have a tremendous year doing what we’re asking him to do.”

Behind Ponce are three running backs who have shared the load in the offseason in senior Mikah Guice, sophomore Jose Trevino and junior Sherman Wade.

“Jose has good speed and quickness, and I think he is going to have a great year,” Cary said. “He’s young, fun to watch and he can make people miss.”

Guice saw action on varsity last season, carrying the ball 20 times for 111 yards.

“He is a hard-nosed, tough runner,” Cary said.

The most significant addition to the offense is senior wideout Kade Bengtson, who missed all last season with a torn ACL. Anthony Trevino returns from his sophomore year as a quick receiver in the slot, where he caught 21 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown.

He also ran for two scores and 160 yards.

“Having Kade back is huge,” Cary said. “He has had a good spring and a great summer. He is a great athlete who has the ability to get the ball and has some good speed.

“Anthony back in the slot has great speed and can complement our outside receivers. His presence creates other opportunities for other guys.”

Cary also highlighted Shaydon Coulter as another receiver with a good offseason.

“We have some good tools for Isaac,” the coach said.

Cary also returns starters on the offensive line, including Dawson Scott, Caleb Solis at center and Colton Donner at right tackle. Kris Whitley and John Charles round out the current starting five.

“Colton is probably our biggest kid on the line,” Cary said. “I am excited about him. I feel good about our offensive line. They are big and have a chance to be physical this year up front.

While Cary has inserted his new terminology into the offense, his staff has tried to make the playbook relatable so players can build on their prior knowledge, he said.

“I think if our offense can stay healthy, we have a chance to put up some points,” Cary said. “A lot of what we are doing is similar to what they have done in the past. It hasn’t been a reinventing of the wheel, so they have been able to pick it up pretty quickly.”

The Bucs will shift to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Linebacker is a strength for B’wood, so Cary wants to draw from that position as much as possible. The odd front trades bulk up front for speed.

“With the linebackers that we have and the loss of the d-linemen, we thought the transition to the 3-4 fits us better,” Cary said.

The coach returns 2021 starter Ronnie Jones (42 tackles, five tackles for a loss, three sacks). Starting defensive back Croix Rivera (46 tackles, four passes defensed) moves up to the strong side linebacker position so he can be closer to the ball because of his athleticism and instincts, Cary said.

Caleb Warren will occupy the other insider backer position next to Jones, and junior Mason Donovan will play the weak side.

“We feel like we have a good group of linebackers,” Cary said.

Jaydon Blackmon returns to safety (21 tackles, three interceptions) next to Danner Bowles. Sophomore Caleb Jefferson will get a crack at the starting defensive back spot with junior Renee Scorza to round out the starting secondary.

“I feel good about those guys. They are all learning a new defense with coach (William Calvert) as our defensive coordinator,” Cary said. “He has done a good job with those guys.”

Despite the team missing the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season last year, expectations are high in 2022.

Last year, Brazoswood enjoyed its best season since 2015 with a 4-6 mark and recorded its first district win in about three seasons. The program also leaped over several hurdles that dogged it for years.

The Bucs snapped a 17-game home losing skid with their season-opening win against Santa Fe and beat Clear Creek to snap a 16-game district skid.

The team was also a couple of plays away from earning wins against Clear Brook and Clear Lake that would have qualified it for a postseason berth.

“You’ve seen in Dave Campbell’s magazine that we are picked seventh, and I think the kids have a little chip on their shoulder. I think we all know we have a lot to prove,” Cary said, “but it is a daily process. So we are going to focus on the day we have, be the best version of ourselves and see what the scoreboard says at the end of each night.

“... There’s a lot of goals that this team has, but we’ve got a long way to go before we talk about those, so we are trying to be the best we can be.”

Jake Dowling is the sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0161 or at jake.dowling@thefacts.com.

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