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2021 SUDAN HORNETS VARSITY FOOTBALL  – The Sudan Hornets are coached by John Cornelius, who is in his third year at the helm in Sudan. He is joined on the sideline this season by Ron Sanders and Aaron Ledbetter, who are also in their third years at Sudan, Steven Gray, who is in his second year with the Hornets and Judd Cathey, who will be entering his first season with the Hornets this year. (Staff Photo by Derek Lopez)

               The Sudan Hornets’ varsity football team is coming off of a 5-6 season in 2020, where they took a first-round exit from the play-offs at the hands of Wink.

               Head Coach John Cornelius enters year three at the helm in Sudan, looking to take another step forward in 2021.

               “Practices are going good. We’ve got about 41 kids out this year, so numbers are good,” he stated. “The kids are working hard and are flying around and the energy is good. I’ve been real pleased with the effort.”

               He added, “We’ve definitely got some experience coming back up front and we have some coming back at the skill spots, but we also have some young guys in those skill positions as well, so we’re just trying to mesh everything together right now.”

               Coach Cornelius returns three coaches from last years staff in Ron Sanders, Steven Gray and Aaron Ledbetter. He is also joined on the sideline this year by an old coaching mate in Judd Cathey.

               “This is probably one of the better coaching staffs I have been a part of,” he said. “There is a lot of energy in there with those guys and they have some great relationships with the kids and are a very good group of coaches.”

               He added, “Coach Cathey is coming to us from Hamlin. He was on those staffs that had those two good runs that ended up in the State championship game two years ago. He gained a lot of experience there and prior to that he was at Merkel with me, so he already knows my system. He has fit right in and it has been a very smooth transition.”

               Coach Cornelius talked about having the familiarity already in place between the kids and coaches, saying, “When you start putting kids in positions and schemes haven’t changed, the foundation has been set, so we’re way ahead of where we have been the last couple of years. We feel like we’re ready to make that next step again and see where this thing can go.”

               The Hornets have two linemen back that played on that Area finalist team two years ago in Abram Rodriguez and Gabe Cisneros.

               “Quarterback wise, we are doing it by committee right now with Josh Cervera, who was our top production guy last season in the skill area; and Trent Wilson,” the coach explained. “Right now those guys are going to split time pretty evenly at quarterback and see how it shakes out as the season goes on. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if they both continue to see action at quarterback throughout the season.”

               Coach Cornelius talked about who will be filling in the rest of the offensive line, saying “Rodriguez is coming off of knee surgery and will miss at least the first four games for us, but Cisneros will be at center, Drew Carr started all season for us on the offensive line last season, Eric Munoz started every game for us on the offensive line last season and Nathan King started a few games for us on the o-line.”

               He added, “We’re filling in Rodriguez’s spot with freshman, Jon Conley, who is coming in and also Delray Garza, who hasn’t played football the last two years, but he is getting lots of work at that spot. We feel pretty good about what we have up front; we wish we had Abram out there right now, but those guys are doing a good job.”

               The Coach talked about who will be lining up for him on defense this year, saying, “Defensively, all 11 guys are doing a great job. They’re flying to the ball and really understand our concepts and schemes. Michael Limon and Anthony Rodriguez are going to be our cornerbacks. They started just about every game there last season for us. Josh Cervera is moving back to free safety to replace the void left by Lane Wilson, who graduated in the spring.”

               He added, “Every one of our linebackers saw time last year; Jeremiah Castillo in the middle, Drew Carr will be at one of our stack backers and Jaden Conley is going to move to the other stack backers. Both our hornets, Trent Wilson and Sal Juarez saw time last year in a reserve role, but they saw a lot of time on varsity last year. Up front, we didn’t lose anything on the defensive line, so we feel really good about those three with Gabe, Abram and Jordie Bellar.”

               Coach Cornelius stated that the guy he has really seen step up and become a vocal leader this fall is Gabe Cisneros.

               “He has been there for four years and has won a lot of football games. He has been the most vocal and the steadiest leader out there,” the coach stated. “But, we also have a lot of guys out there leading by example. They don’t say a whole lot, but they show up and do the right thing and set the right example out there for the young guys. After Gabe, it’s bee largely by committee; Drew Carr has also been very active as a leader out there as well.”

               The coach talked about what he feels their strength heading into the season will be, saying, “Defensively, we are going to be way ahead of the game going into the season. I feel like this is the most solid group from position to position that we’ve had since we lost that big senior class two years ago. I think those guys are going to set the tone every game. We have a lot more size up front than what we had last year, but they’re big guys who can run, so we’re not sacrificing speed for size.”

               He added, “Offensively, we’re going to wait and see who is going to step up and produce those touchdowns for us. Josh has been good, Trent has done some good things. We have Nick Gonzales at running back, who has stepped in and done some good things. We also have two freshmen running backs, who are going to surprise some people Marcelle King and Joel Williams. We’re going to run behind Jeremiah and Jaden a lot.”

               The coach gave his thouhts on their schedule, saying, “It’s going to be a tough go of it in the pre-season; we open up with Olton and it’s always a battle. We’ve come out on top the last few years, but we always expect a battle when we face those guys. We jump right into Sundown, who is solid year after year and they have a good group coming back. Farwell is always good and a big rival and then we have Stamford at Post. They’re a little bit of an unknown for us, but they have great athletes and are another division one school who is used to making the play-offs every year. We finish up with Crosbyton and Roscoe; Roscoe is a game we added, so we don’t know much about those guys, but we’re excited.”

               He added, “Going into district, the district race could be anyones. Bovina had a good squad last year and has a lot of those guys coming back. Smyer won the district last year and has a good group returning. New Home had the best young kids out of everybody and they’re going to take another step forward. Ropes has probably the fastest kid in the district coming back for them to give the ball to.”

               The Hornets open up with Olton at home on Aug. 27th before hosting Sundown on Sept. 3rd. The rest of the schedule is as follows:

               Sept. 10th at Farwell; Sept. 17th Stamford at Post; Sept. 24th home against Crosbyton; Oct. 1st home against Roscoe; Oct. 8th home against Bovina; Oct. 15th OPEN; Oct. 22nd at Ropes; Oct. 29th home against Smyer and they will close out the season on Nov. 5th with a road game against New Home.

               All kick-offs are slated for 7 p.m.

Derek Lopez

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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