LA VILLA — It’s been eight years since La Villa’s last district championship. During that span, the Cardinals have finished as runner-ups three different times.
Now, with a 4-2 overall record heading into District 16-2A DI action this week, the Cardinals are out to shake things up and hope to win a district title.
“That’s our No. 1 goal. Bring it back for the coaches, for ourselves and for the community,” senior running back Christian Ortiz said.
The Cardinals’ road to a district title begins as they kick off District 16-2A DI competition against Premont (3-2, 0-0), the defending district champion, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at La Villa High School.
Last year’s matchup against Premont was for the district title, but the Cowboys rolled to a 41-0 victory. The Cardinals haven’t forgotten the feeling.
“They whooped us pretty bad last year, but this year, we’re expecting to win,” senior linebacker Jerry Reyes said.
La Villa has built a 4-2 non-district record riding the strength of its running game. A resurgence on the offensive line has led to plenty of room to run free for running backs Arnulfo Contreras and Christian Ortiz, both of whom have more than 600 rushing yards, thus far.
“Those guys (Contreras and Ortiz) are seniors and have had great years, so far. These linemen, if they just block for a second, these guys are so quick that they just blow by there,” La Villa head coach Danny Perez said.
“Without your linemen, running backs ain’t nothing. I know that and they know that, I tell them that everyday,” Ortiz said. “It’s been fun. It’s the only place I feel like I have my own family. It’s why I like coming out here and pushing my teammates like they push me everyday.”
La Villa had around five linemen on last year’s roster. They all had to play both ways.
This season, the Cardinals have 20 linemen who spend time focusing on either offense or defense, which allows them to play four quarters with gas in their tanks.
“We can afford to put one group on offense, one group on defense. Last year we had to go both ways so our linemen would get really tired; this year we don’t have to do that,” Perez said. “When you have guys rested going in there, it’s totally different. Last year, I had a middle linebacker going at guard and a defensive end going at tackle, so they were gassed by the second quarter, so it’s a big difference compared to last year.”
Senior receiver Keanu Escobar said the team has been locked in working towards one common goal — the District 16-2A DI championship.
“Last year, we weren’t clicking as much as we are this year. We’re just practicing hard, getting our plays right and perfecting it,” he said. “We just want to bring a district title back for our city.”
If the Cardinals can soar past Premont on Friday night, they’ll take a giant step in the direction of the elusive district title for the first time since 2013.
“I’ve been here five years, this is my sixth year, so getting that district title, that’s the main goal that we set at the beginning of the year. What do we need to do? We need to do those little things right,” Perez said.