Offensive line growth fueling improvement for Santa Rosa

SANTA ROSA — Patience, hard work and believing in the process paid off for the Santa Rosa Warriors as they secured their first win of the season Friday.

After battling for three weeks and getting closer and closer to victory, the Warriors (1-3) shut out Progreso 50-0 during their final non-district contest. The win was significant for the program, marking the first victory for new coach Joe Marichalar in Santa Rosa and his first as a head coach since 2017. Marichalar was recognized by the Hispanic Texas High School Football Coaches Association as a coach of the week for crossing that hurdle.

“It’s always a blessing when you win. We say we’re going to work really hard and give all the glory to God, so it’s a blessing when you win and you get accolades,” Marichalar said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it was good to get that win just to let the kids know their hard work is paying off. If they continue to work hard and stay dedicated and committed, those wins are going to happen on their own.”

Marichalar credited the offensive line for anchoring the team’s success. Santa Rosa’s offense got a little better each week, going from 10 to 14 to 19 points scored before exploding for 50 last week.

“We have some guys that can really make some plays for us, but where it all starts is with the offensive line,” Marichalar said. “Those guys are the main catalysts that get the team going. They open up holes for our running backs and give us time to throw. The O-line has steadily been improving, jelling, they’re understanding the offense and the defense, so a lot of the credit goes to them.”

Jorge Cisneros, a senior offensive tackle, said getting the win, which was his first as a varsity player, “felt very amazing.” But the linemen didn’t feel they played their best, so they challenged each other to work harder and “block to the whistle” when they play host to Odem (4-0) in the District 16-3A Division I opener at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve been working hard these past few weeks, and getting that win was something we wanted. We were all really happy about it,” Cisneros said. “As an O-line group, we discussed that we were a bit lazy, missed a couple blocks. We got together, said we need to step it up and put more work in.”

Antonio Saldana Jr., a sophomore center, echoed Cisneros, saying the linemen are striving to get better before the next game. The Warriors know Odem, the favorite to win the district, will pose a big test, but Saldana feels they’re ready.

“Odem is going to be the toughest team we’ve gone against, but we came together as a team last week, got our coach his first win, and we see that it works. After going 0-3, it definitely brought our confidence back up. It brings momentum into this week,” Saldana said. “We’re a lot different from the first practice. We’re all accountable for each other, call each other out when we need it. … We’re pushing real hard in the weight room, out on the field, giving it 110 percent.”

Along with accountability, the camaraderie among the linemen is a big boost for Santa Rosa. Cisneros believes the unit can help the team surprise doubters this season.

“We succeed as a group and we fail as a group. We never blame each other. If someone makes a mistake, it’s on the whole line. No one takes the fall on their own,” Cisneros said. “I feel (our offensive line is) the fastest in the district, and that’s going to help us in our playing style. I feel like a lot of people are counting us out. New coach, started out 0-3, we’re a young team, but we’re not going to let any of that discourage us.”

With the big guys setting an example and leading the way, the Warriors are going to stay focused on themselves as they fight for the right to do another “victory run” around the school.

“We’re going in with the mindset that we’re just going to worry about ourselves. We’re going to focus on our tasks, our job, and just try to execute as best we can,” Marichalar said. “If we can eliminate the mistakes and go out and play tough, execute, it’s anybody’s game at that point.”