By DEREK LOPEZ
The Sudan Hornets’ varsity football team is coming off of a stellar season as they get set to enter a new era under Head Coach John Cornelius.
Last season, the Hornets went 9-2 overall, 4-1 in district and fell to Wink, 31-14, in the Bi-district round of the Class 2A-DII Playoffs.
Coach Cornelius will have one returning coach in secondary/receivers coach Rocky Winn. Joining the staff this year are Ron Sanders, who will be their defensive coordinator; Aaron Ledbetter and Ray Parmer.
“Coach Sanders is going to be our offensive and defensive line coach, as well as our defensive coordinator,” Coach Cornelius said. “He is coming to us from Post. He is originally from Lubbock and spent some time at Lamesa as well. Coach Parmer played for me in high school at Tahoka, this is his first job and he’ll be coaching our linebackers and running backs and Coach Ledbetter will be coaching the offensive and defensive lines as well.”
The Hornets returned a big chunk of their starting line-ups on both sides of the ball.
“On the defensive side of the ball, we got the bulk of the defense back, anchored by Alex Conley on the defensive line,” the coach said. “He will be starting at nose guard, but we plan on moving him all over the defensive line. Jesus Guerra, who was here last year, but was ineligible, he is a senior this year. He is probably our biggest football player and is going to contributed on both the offensive and defensive lines.”
He added, “Parker Battin is a returning two-way starter from last year. He is still playing on the offensive line and will play some inside linebacker for us as well. Rustin Penrod is a returning linebacker. He didn’t start, but played the equivalent of a starter. We have Callen Cannon, Bode Box and Lane Wilson in the secondary. BJ Davila gave them some good time last year on the defensive front. Just the bulk of the defense is back and I’m really pleased with the progress they’ve made in the new system. I feel like we’re way ahead of the game on the defensive side of the ball.”
The offense will be led by senior quarterback, Christian Montes, who is back as a four-year starter at the position.
“Offensively, we have a lot of returners on that side too. We have to replace the lost production of [Chris] Schovajsa at running back, but we’re going to do it by committee right now,” the coach explained. “We have Rustin Penrod, Callen Cannon and Jacob Luna. Luna has been very impressive early in camp. He was a guy that moved in late at the end of last year, so he didn’t play much for Sudan, so a lot of people don’t really know who he is.”
He added, “Out there on the perimeter, Isaiah Cisneros is moving up from the JV and Joe Limon is also doing some good things at the receiver position. Beto Diaz is also doing some good things for us on both sides of the ball.”
The coach talked about how his team has taken to the new system, saying, The guys have adapted very well.
“The summer time that we had gave us a good introduction to the offense, and man, they have adapted well,” he said. “We’ve been throwing the ball efficiently; the ground game didn’t concern me, because as much as they ran the ball last year, it was going to translate for what we do.”
He added, “As far as throwing the ball, we’ve come a long way and they are picking it up. We have the bulk of the playbook on. We still have a few layers to add, but I’m very impressed with where we are and how we are executing it.”
The coach said he feels that they have a lot of speed, quickness and experience and that those things are going to be their strengths this season. “It’s hard to name them all because we have so many returning starters and guys that played a lot,” he said. “The depth is there, the experience is there, the quickness is there, they’ve picked up the system fast and have a really high football IQ.”
He added, “We have lots of strengths to build on, the culture has been established, Coach Virdell did an excellent job establishing a good culture and we’re just trying to build on it.”
Coach Cornelius talked about the schedule, saying, “We start off with Olton and they’re going to be one of our toughest pre-district tests right off of the bat. Then we have New Home, Boys Ranch and Crosbyton and finish up with Smyer. I think that slate of teams is going to get us ready and prepared for district play. It will help us kind of gauge where we are at and let us know what we need to work on.”
He added, “Once we get to district, the perennial favorite has been Farwell and until somebody knocks them off of the top, they’re definitely the front-runners and everybody is chasing them. With them being right down the road and being a big rival, it’s in the back of our minds, but each and every week in district is going to be tough. Bovina has their quarterback back and from what I understand, he is a really good ball player. Springlake-Earth is a young and up and coming team and I’ve heard lots of good things about the team they’re putting together this year. Seagraves has some kids back that they didn’t have last year. I think they’re going to be healthier and more of a threat. From what I understand, Plains graduated a lot last year, but I expect them to reload and be ready to go. It’s going to be a tough district schedule with Farwell being the favorite and everyone else chasing them.”
Sudan will open the season at home against Olton on Aug. 30th, the rest of their schedule is as follows: Sept. 6th at New Home; Sept. 13th home against Crosbyton; Sept. 20th at Boys Ranch and Oct. 4th at Smyer to close out their non-district schedule.
Sudan will open district play with back-to-back home games, first they take on Bovina on Oct. 11th and then host Seagraves on Oct. 18th. They will be at Springlake-Earth on Oct. 25th, before hosting Plains on Nov. 1st. They will close out the season on the road on Nov. 9th against Farwell.
Non-District kick-offs are slated for 7:30 p.m., while district kick-offs are scheduled for 7 p.m.