Texas A&M University Kingsville’s coach Michael Salinas claps alongside his team before the start of a lone spring football game Saturday against UT Permian Basin at Pepsi Field at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville. Salinas was a former high school coach at Robert Vela High in Edinburg and Weslaco High. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

KINGSVILLE — Texas A&M University Kingsville head football coach Michael Salinas, an Edinburg High and TAMUK alum, has had a unique first year leading the program he once played for.

The Lone Star Conference decided not to sponsor football this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which left the Javelinas unable to play a home game in over 490 days.

That streak ended Saturday as Salinas, the former head coach of Rio Grande Valley high school football programs Edinburg Vela and Weslaco High, led TAMUK onto Pepsi Field at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville against Texas Permian Basin for the only home game of their abbreviated spring schedule.

“It’s been a challenge, but I’m a firm believer in God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I think everybody in the country is going through some tough times, so we were no different, but our kids battled,” Salinas said. “They were resilient and I’m proud of them for just adapting and adjusting and pivoting through all the situations we faced in the fall, and then the challenges we had this spring.”

This year’s group of Javelinas also includes 17 former Valley football players on its roster, making for a home reunion of sorts at TAMUK with a football coach from the region at the helm.

Those players are:

>>  Michael Arguelles of Edinburg Vela, a redshirt sophomore receiver;

>>  Amonte Bowen of Donna High, a redshirt sophomore;

>>  Jacob Cavazos of Weslaco High, a freshman quarterback;

>>  Julio Cuello of Edinburg Vela, a freshman offensive lineman;

>>  Daniel Enriquez of Edinburg Vela, a redshirt sophomore;

>>  Aziel Garcia of Edinburg Vela, a redshirt freshman receiver;

>>  Gilbert Garza of Weslaco East, a freshman kicker;

>>  Zach Gomez of La Villa and Mercedes, a freshman quarterback;

>>  Ben Flores of Rio Hondo, a sophomore offensive lineman;

>>  Kevin McKinney of Edinburg Vela, a freshman running back;

>>  Marco Noriega of Weslaco High, a sophomore linebacker;

>>  Jonas Ortiz of McAllen Rowe, a freshman athlete;

>>  Seven Sanchez of PSJA North, a freshman defensive back;

>>  Rafael Recio of Brownsville Pace, a freshman offensive lineman;

>>  Tate Scott of Edinburg Vela, a sophomore kicker;

>>  Lorenzo Villarreal of Los Fresnos, a sophomore defensive lineman.

Several of them got their first taste of college football Saturday.

Texas A&M University Kingsville’s Jacob Cavazos (16) of Welsaco High, Daniel Enriquez (85) of Edinburg Vela, Michael Arguelles (82) of Edinburg Vela and Amonte Bowen (27) of Donna High are seen during warm up drills before a spring football game Saturday at Pepsi Field at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Bowen provided a spark out of the backfield for the Javelinas with nine carries for 52 yards, while Enriquez played nearly half the team’s offensive snaps at slot receiver with two catches for seven yards. Cavazos took over at quarterback for two offensive possessions, one in each half, and Scott served as the team’s kickoff man.

“I think we’re just putting a lot of things in place in terms of the type of ball club we’re going to be and the type of standard that we set for effort and execution. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with those guys, continuing to allow them to grow in our system, and then seeing what the future holds for them,” Salinas said. “But I think they’re all going to experience success in Kingsville if they continue to work.”

After losing both of their spring games, 45-34 against Midwestern State on March 6 and 17-2 against Texas Permian Basin on Saturday, Salinas hopes the experience pays off when the Javelinas kick off their 2021-22 season this fall.

“It was a blessing to be able to play. Hats off to our administration and to our training staff for doing the things necessary to get us to this point,” Salinas said. “We found out a lot about our ball club. Our guys are going to learn to come together. They’re going to learn what it’s like to play like a Javelina and play Javelina football.

“Unfortunately, we fell short twice. I hope that provides some motivation for these guys in the offseason. We’re going to focus on how good we want to be and then work like crazy to get there.”