2011 was a football season that started bad and got worse for United South, as high expectations never materialized. This year they have cleaned house and a new head coach is instilling values that he hopes carries them beyond the football field.
"You got to start from the ground up anytime you start a program. First it's the mental part of it. All the effort and commitment and attitude part of it. Without that it doesn't matter what you do, nothing's going to work." (Sergio Salinas, United South Head Coach)
This is the mantra first year coach Salinas has preached since the first day he was hired to lead the panthers.
"First thing coming in we really worked on our kids attitudes and what kind of effort we expected from them and i think our kids have done a great job picking that up." (Salinas)
The players say they've noticed a vast difference even in practice from last season.
"Practice has been really good. I still think we need to pick up the intensity but overall I think we are doing way good, much better." (Cesar Alfaro, United South Safety/Receiver)
On offense it looks to be a changing of the guard as gone are the pass happy sets and instead a much more controlled ground game is expected.
"Being able to get four or five yards a play and eventually break one of those. Once they start loading up the box being able to spread the field with the passing game as well." (Salinas)
On defense the Panthers look to keep things simple running a 3-4 with Cesar Alfaro leading the way from his safety spot, a job he takes confidently.
"I take it seriously. Number one I don't want the coach to get after me because he does and I'm the leader. I'm the oldest. I have to represent." (Alfaro)
"We're going to play defense the way it's supposed to be played, full speed. That's what we preach to them and that's what our kids are doing right now." (Salinas)
While last season was a disappointment the panthers are excited about the fresh start their new mindset brings them.
"You want to win the game, it starts with scouting reports. It starts on Tuesday with physical practice. Wednesday your polish up day. All those things that's what wins you the game on Friday night." (Salinas)
"We want to be district champs and make the playoffs of course. We want that trophy." (Alfaro)
The Panthers are the first to get a crack at real action here in Laredo as they take on McAllen High tomorrow night in the valley. Be sure to tune in to “Friday Football Fever” all season long for the most complete recap of all the action around eight country.