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The Trailblazer

The student news site of McNeil High School

The Trailblazer

The student news site of McNeil High School

The Trailblazer

Football Season/Playoffs Q&A with Coach Hermes

Photo By Bella Reeves

How long have you been coaching in general? And at McNeil?
“This is my twenty-third year [coaching]. Fourth year at McNeil.”

How did you feel going into the season? Did you feel different than in past years?
“We felt pretty good going into the season. We went 2-8 last year but we lost about five games by one score or less. We thought we were in the game, we had opportunities to win, we just couldn’t quite get over the hump. We knew we had a really good freshman class coming up, they went 10-0 last year. So, we knew we were going to get an influx of talent from those guys. It’s just a good mix right now, of senior leadership, some good juniors and then some really talented sophomores that are helping us score points.”

When selecting the roster this year, especially with so many sophomores as starters, did you feel more hopeful about the team’s performance?
“I knew we’d be more talented so it’s always a little bit dicey whenever you’re starting that many sophomores, especially at the 6A level. You want juniors and seniors, you want guys that have been there, that have had the experience of playing varsity and those kinds of games. We have spring football, and we could see last spring that there were several sophomores that needed to be playing varsity, playing Friday nights. Yeah, it did give us a lot of, I guess hope, would be a good word, going into it, that these guys were going to mature quickly and help us be the best team we could be.”

At the beginning of the season did you think playoffs was in question?
“Oh yeah absolutely. We talked about it, all offseason we talked about it. Our motto was ‘ETW’ which stands for ‘expect to win.’ We thought that that was one of the things that culturally, we needed to change, was that we went into too many games maybe hoping to win or maybe if we caught some breaks, we might win. Rather than going into it saying, “Hey, we’re good and so we’re gonna win this game” and sometimes just believe in that mindset. You’ve gotta make that change and I think we’ve done a lot to make that change happen.”

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At what point in the season did you believe/know the team would get to playoffs and how did you feel then?
“Well, it was such an up-and-down season. We started the district with a loss that we just didn’t play very well. And so that obviously hurt our chances. When our backs were kind of up against the wall was when we played our best. We responded [to] that bad loss, with a really good win against an unbeaten, Vista Ridge, team. Had a tough loss to Westwood and responded by shutting out Round Rock at Homecoming. We believed we could do it, it was a matter of getting it done in the tough moments.”

Are there any times that your own team/players surprised you on the field?
“I know they’re talented and I know what they’re able to do. What I see in practice, and kind of what I expect of them but again, they’ve made some plays already this year that even caught me by surprise. Some catches by our receivers, some of the plays that that defense has made. Again, I think right now, we’re playing our best football, which is what you want to be doing, playing your best whenever you get into the playoffs.”

Are there any games that you were more nervous about going into in the season?
“No, not really. If it’s a team that you feel like you’re better than and you’re nervous because we’re better than them and we need to perform, we need to take care of business. If it’s a team that you think is as talented or maybe even more talented than you, then you’re nervous because you’ve gotta make all the plays and the margin for error is pretty slim. So, to be honest with you, I’m nervous before all of them and I’ll create my own reasons to be nervous sometimes. But, yeah they’re all important.”

Is there anything that has been different about this season in comparison to others?
“No. I’ll tell you, the best thing is, and maybe because I’ve been here and a lot of my staff, this is their third or fourth year and some of them came with me from Vandegrift, is just the way we practice is a lot better and the way we do drills. When we make mistakes it’s not me or the coaching staff having to get on the athletes about the mistake, a lot of the time it’s them correcting each other. And whenever you have that kind of accountability, where teammates hold each other accountable, that’s when you’ve got something pretty good.”

How does the team practice? What times, how often? Is the routine different from past years?
“No, not really. We practice in the mornings. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the guys are up here at 6:45 [am] and we have 1st-period athletics. So basically, we practice, do all of our meetings, everything goes through the first period and then we come back after school and lift weights. We shorten practice up a little bit on Wednesday and Thursday, as we get closer to our game. But yeah, that’s kind of our practice schedule and that hasn’t changed. That’s been the same for four years. It’s just that level of accountability is what’s really improved. Along with that, right now, people are energetic, we’re having some success, you know how it is when you’re doing well, it’s a little more fun than going through the motions. It’s good.”

How have you watched your current team/players grow over the past 4 years?
“Since this is my 4th year, this is the group that was freshmen when I first started. So, it’s been really cool to see them, where they were in their freshman year and kind of what our expectations were of them then. To see them grow and mature and get four years with them, that’s been really neat. And I guess, since it’s kind of my first class, it kind of makes it a little bit, I don’t know if special is the right word, but it’s really cool to see them and see all the things that they’ve done along the way.”

Is there anything the team has taught you or that you’ve learned from them?
“Our first year, we weren’t very good at all and then our second year, we were a little bit better, went 3-7. We won the last two games of the season. We felt like we’d corrected a lot of mistakes and errors and got the mindset going in the right direction. And last year we went 2-8, we lost all of those one-score games and it was really tough because it seemed like when the defense was playing well, the offense wasn’t, or vice versa. But we just couldn’t quite get over the hump and so where we thought we had done a lot to improve our situation and we thought we were a lot better, our record was actually worse and it was really frustrating and so we talked a lot about what success looks like. And one of the lessons that I learned was that success isn’t linear and so you like to think that you put in the work and so you do better, we worked harder, were working smarter, our kids are buying in and everything’s right, and so we should win five games, we should win six games, and that’s just not the way it goes sometimes. So, that was a good lesson for me to learn and it’s a tough one. You can see now, kind of bouncing back this year, we’re kind of back on that plane and hopefully continuing.”

Is there anything you’ve said to the team or that y’all worked on that you think has really helped?
“I talked earlier about what we did in the offseason, the ‘ETW’ and what that stands for and how that mindset is. Right now, with us going into the playoffs, I think the biggest thing is, we’ve got to stay hungry and not be satisfied. We’ve got a good game Friday night that we can win and in my experience, I’ve coached teams that were just happy to be in the playoffs and then they got to the playoffs they didn’t perform very well and their season ended and so I think that we’ve done a good job as a coaching staff of keeping our players understanding like “Let’s go, keep winning, keep this thing going” and the kids are doing a great job of buying in and I think they want it to keep going as well so that’s kind of our focus right now.”

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Alyssa Perera
Alyssa Perera, Reporter
Hi, I'm Alyssa! This is my second year on newspaper staff. I love baking, reading and watching TV. I'm really looking forward to this year!
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