“I’ll bet there’s not a 2A school in the state that had more than 50 show up for summer conditioning,” Herring said. “I think this is the best year we’ve had to win a state championship. I can’t wait.”
The first year, 10 came for conditioning; last year, 50 turned out, the most in Herring’s 17 years of coaching until now.
“We have masses – everyone’s committed,” he said. “We’re going to be in the best shape we’ve ever been in for two-a-days in the heat of the summer because of the commitment of the kids.”
This week when the Texas Football magazine hit the stands, and word spread that Dave Campbell’s poll picked the Bobcats as the No. 1 2A team in the state, Herring was quick to say, “we didn’t need the magazine to tell us; all that did was solidify it.”
The coach prepared the kids.
“I told them they would be ranked first or second,” Herring said.
The Bobcats return six starters on offense and eight on defense.
Herring led the Cats to the Division II semifinals last year, losing only to state champion Daingerfield. His two previous years, Herring’s Bobcats went to the quarterfinals. He’s amassed an amazing 40-3 record.
“I’m not driven to be in second place,” he says. “I’ve been there, done that. I want the kids to win a championship for Jack Sportsman, the community and for them. I’ve got a state championship ring but I want one so bad for the kids.”
Bobcat stalwart nose guard Danny Hernandez (55) and speedster running back Terrence Smith (21) were also picked by Texas Football magazine as a preseason 2A all-state players. Smith was selected as an offensive utility player and Hernandez as a defensive lineman.
Hernandez made 100 tackles and landed a number of accolades from sportswriters, including defensive most valuable player of the year as a junior in both the AP, Area and All South Texas teams.
“Danny’s story is neat,” Herring said. “He’s a good kid that was under the radar on the football field until last year.”
Danny moved up to varsity in backup mode as a running back and on the line, behind all-state lineman Dylan Klare and running back Terrence Smith.
“Danny is a good kid who lives in the weight room,” Herring said.
Frustrated and looking for the right player for the nose guard slot last summer, Herring spotted Hernandez.
“I was looking for a stocky, well-built kid,” Herring said.
The coach told Danny he could try nose guard and if he could do it, he’d be a starter.
“He absolutely blossomed from that second on,” Herring said. “In 10 plays, he made it to the backfield 10 times, nobody could stop him.”
Over the season, Hernandez made 100 tackles and Herring says he stepped up to leadership mode.
“You can’t replace Dylan Klare but there’s always somebody to step up – everything they do is right,” Herring says.
Smith was one of the key ball carriers last season.
Herring believes in blunt honesty with the kids and he minces no words about the difficulty of winning a state championship. But to his core, he believes this is the year of the Bobcats.
For the first time, the Bobcats will be more evenly matched by size. The Bobcats were moved to the 2A small school category.
“In the last three years, we’ve been beaten in the playoffs by schools that are nearly twice the size of Refugio,” he said. “Numbers don’t catch up to you at district – not until you get to the playoffs where everybody’s a stud does it get to be a factor.”
Herring says community tradition, good coaching and talent are usually a common denominator among the last eight teams standing.
“Refugio is the only regional champ from past seasons that’s going to be in the small division; that tells you that numbers make a difference,” he said. “There’s a big, huge advantage for the big schools. Any time you can level the playing field, it’s better for the kids.”
“We’re not afraid of anybody; and we love to play a good team,” he said.
Blanco, Rice Consolidated and Daingerfield will all be in the big 2A category.
The Bobcats will kick off the season against Rice Consolidated.
“This team is part of something real special,” Herring said. “I told them, ‘you’ve set the bar high.’ Now it’s about pride. We’ve had 100 kids every day. I’m real proud of them.”