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HARLINGEN – “Keep it simple. Win every day.”
Manny Gomez said those simple words as part of a grand philosophy about preparing Harlingen High School football players for life.
“Treat everybody the same, treat the custodian like you do the president,” said Gomez, the Cardinal football coach as he spoke Friday at the annual Football Coaches Forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Harlingen.
The event at the Hilton Garden Inn Friday appeared to be a new and improved version of the coach’s forum. Cheer squads from Harlingen High School, Harlingen High School South, and Marine Military Academy danced and cheered in the late morning sun as the drumline from Vela Middle School created a festive and energetic effect.
Rotary Club of Harlingen President Juanita Stringfield said those additions to the coaches forum had been in place for a couple of years, but for those who had not attended recently it was a great surprise. The event included a lunch of filet mignon, vegetables, and roasted red potatoes.
The forum attracted numerous city leaders including Harlingen School Board President Belinda Reininger, Harlingen High School South Principal Fernando Reyes and Harlingen Interim Superintendent Veronica Kortan.
“We have it because football is part of our roots in the Valley,” Stringfield said. “Friday night is for families to come together and cheer for their team.”
Gomez from the Cardinal campus joined Israel Gonzalez, football coach at Harlingen High School South, and Marine Military Academy Athletic Director W.G. Luckey. The three answered questions from Harlingen School Board Member Eladio Jaimez who served as moderator.
“What do you have coming back this year?” Jaimez asked Gonzalez. “I know you were a young team last year.”
“When I showed up two years ago, we had a really good returning senior class,” Gonzalez said. “We were blessed enough to really give those seniors a great experience. That year we graduated 34 kids.”
“Last year we did have some growing pains,” Gonzalez said. “We’re moving at a different speed from year to year. That’s just part of football.”
Luckey spoke about the broad diversity of cadets coming in for another school year – Ukraine, China, Mexico, to name a few – and having them on this year’s football team.
“We have a really good mix of experience and young talent in our coaches, and a lot of returning talent from last year,” he said.
The event, more than anything, was to create, or perhaps recreate for the new school year, a sense of community between the local football programs, educators and city leaders.
Kortan was pleased.
“We are proud to be able to highlight our football programs today, and we are ready for another season of Friday Night Lights,” Kortan said. “Our football programs reiterate the importance of team work and that’s a lifelong skill. When people are a part of teams, they learn how to be collaborative and work towards a common goal.”
The cheerleading squads so visible in their bold colors showed that teamwork in action and in their enthusiasm for the new year.
“I like leading the team, getting to inspire them,” said Valeria Limas, 17, captain of the Harlingen High School South cheerleaders.
And the beginning of the school year?
“I really like it, it’s nice,” Valeria said. “It feels good. I’m really excited for the new year, my senior year.”
Everyone seemed excited for the approach of the school year, which begins Aug. 14. It is now a joyous time of anticipation for new beginnings, for senior year activities, for Friday Night Lights – and for cooler temperatures.