San Marcos High’s football team would’ve been good at horseshoes last fall, coming as close as a touchdown in four of its losses.
But coach Jason Fowle figures he’s got a couple of ringers this year to get the Royals over the hump, which includes the returning All-Channel League pass-catch combination of Ben Partee and Josh Brown.
“The strength of this team is our senior leadership,” said Fowle, who is entering his fourth season at the helm. “And it’s not just Ben and Josh. There are a lot of seniors who’ve done a good job of setting the right example and setting the tone for the underclassmen to follow how to do things the right way.
“We try to facilitate a family atmosphere and hold each other accountable, and they’ve done a good job of doing that.”
Partee believes that will give the Royals the extra push to pull out the close games this year.
“One of the things that coach Fowle has talked to us about a lot is finishing games, whether it be the fourth quarter of a game or reps in practice,” he said. “We just have to finish everything we do.
“I’m pretty sure that we lost our first three or four games by an average of four points. We keep talking about how that finish is going to give us four points. That’s been our main focus.”
Partee completed 128 of 246 passes for 1,712 yards last year, and 44 of those completions went to Brown for 675 yards. They’re expecting some big senior moments this fall.
“Ben’s worked his tail off,” Fowle said of his second-team all-leaguer. “His No. 1 trait is his work ethic. He’s worked as hard as humanly possible as I’ve seen anyone ever work – academically, athletically, mentally, psychologically.
“He’s a competitor in everything he does.”
Brown, like Partee, is an honors student who uses his brains as much as his athleticism. It earned him a spot on last year’s All-Channel League first team.
“Josh is a multi-sport athlete and a very skilled route-runner and athlete,” Fowle said. “He’s one of those guys who committed over the summer in terms of timing and reps in the passing game with Ben, and we’re certainly looking for positive things from him and the rest of the group.”
Although San Marcos graduated all-league running back Tommy Schaeffer, they do have senior Henry Herrera ready to step into his cleats. He rushed for 97 yards in 24 carries as a backup last year and showed his big-play ability by turning his six pass receptions into 123 yards.
“Henry is a sneaky-type of runner,” Fowle said. “We’re excited about really debuting him this year. He did get some runs last year, caught some passes, but he was behind a couple of seniors.
“This is his year to lead the running game.”
The offensive line is led by a pair of veterans who received All-Channel League honorable mention last year: senior guard Joe Kirkwood and junior center Jorge Medina. Niko Chavez, a 6-foot-4 senior, gives the Royals size and experience at the tackle position.
“The line is looking good,” Fowle said. “We’ve got some returning players and we’re going to try to take advantage of their skill sets and put them into a position to be successful.
“Jorge, Joe, and Niko have become leaders in their own right for the team.”
The defense looks to be young but talented, with 6-3, 200-pound tight end George Tracewell also manning one of the defensive end spots.
“We’re looking for some good things from him,” Fowle said. “We’re going to have a few other two-way players, too.
“Rhys Morgan is a safety who is really a leader in the secondary for us. Isaac Sotelo is a senior cornerback and a returning starter while (linebacker) Bryan Espinosa is a guy who came on strong for us in the middle of the season last year.
“Bryan has always been a vocal leader for us and I think he’s really going to play a big role.”
And this season, the Royals expect to have something to shout about.