HENNESSEY — Looking at some of the current seniors who played vital roles on Hennessey's back-to-back state championship teams, it makes the first title in 2010 even more impressive.
Levi Hill was a 1,000-yard rusher that year. Car Aguirre was a key cog on the defensive line who excelled in the Eagles' unexpected playoff run.
Other seniors — and a few juniors, like new quarterback Dylan Hatchel — were integral on the title teams, which is why there isn't an expectation that Hennessey will drop off, despite some significant losses from a year ago.
Head coach Shannon Watford left for Purcell. Quarterback Trey Leu and the team's heart and soul, Ivan Moreno, graduated along with a few other significant pieces.
But Hennessey is still a name opponents are wary of, as the top-ranked team in Class 2A this preseason.
“We know people won't take us lightly,” said Hill, who will be asked to carry the ball even more this year. “They're gonna be ready for us. They're gonna expect it to be how it's been the last two years.”
Hill shared carries with Moreno the last two years and still has piled up more than 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Expectations grow even greater for Hill as the featured back.
“We're gonna run him as much as we can, as long as he's gaining yards,” new coach Rick Luetjen said. “Our goal is to run the football. He's gonna hopefully get 20 or 25 carries a game, and I'm expecting him to run for at least 2,000 yards or more this year.”
Aguirre has been a defensive end the last two years, but he'll move inside to help plug the middle this year.
“I kind of liked it on the edge,” the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Aguirre said with a smile. “But inside, it's not a big deal. I'll do what the team needs me to do. Our line is definitely going to be one of the strong points of the defense.”
Aguirre will be valuable at tight end, as a sure-handed passing target for Hatchel in his first season behind center.
“Dylan's smart enough to realize that guy can catch the football,” Luetjen said. “He's gonna look to find him as much as he can. I'm sure it's comforting for Dylan to know Car is gonna be out there running routes and getting open.”
It's the perfect example of the value experienced players bring, not only in their own performances, but in the comfort level they provide other players. And Hennessey hopes it keeps paying off — all the way to a third gold ball.
“We've got a lot of guys on our roster who have started for two or three years now,” Luetjen said. “We've faced the same thing the last couple years, graduating three or four pretty good players who we're concerned about trying to replace.
“But it seems like every year, we've had kids step up and realize it's their turn to take over. They've had enough practice over the last few years that they're ready to do it.”
Slogan: Who but Hennessey?
Hennessey might be better aligned with a Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign slogan, as the Eagles pursue their third term as champion. But this one's a take on Herbert Hoover's “Who but Hoover?” slogan in 1928.
Endorsements for Levi Hill and Car Aguirre
Jones coach Dave Martin: “They're a great combination. Levi's a great runner for them. He came into the state championship game and was a strong kid to handle in the running game and was definitely a difference maker. This year, being able to play them Week 2, I figure they're definitely going to do some pounding with him for sure.”
Hennessey coach Rick Luetjen: “Levi has been splitting carries the last two years, and he's still put together a great career so far as a running back, even splitting carries. He's going to be our go-to guy now. Car has been a starter the last two years for us, and he's a big part of our passing game. He's got the best hands on the team and we know we can always count on him to find a spot to get open.”