BIG SPRING - QB GABRIEL BAEZA
Big Spring just concluded their first winning season since 2014 (5-4), picked up the Bi-District title, and were led by a group of juniors that will once again don the black and gold next fall.
One of those juniors to lead the team was starting quarterback Gabriel Baeza. The second-year starter was the driving force behind the Steer offense and he finished the season with 1,830 yards passing with 14 touchdowns to go along with 718 yards rushing and an additional 14 touchdowns.
In total, Baeza finished his junior season with 2,548 yards and 28 total touchdowns in just eight games played. Both the passing and rushing numbers were team-high’s as the strong and confident gunslinger continued to build his confidence as the season moved along.
The season got off to a steaming hot start when Baeza lit up the Vernon defense for four touchdowns through the air and two more on the ground. It was the type of performance that displayed the talented passer’s versatility while also showing the potential of the Baeza-led offense in a 36-14 win,
In got-to-have-it situations, Baeza was usually the player that put the team on his back and he made several eye-opening plays during the course of this season. One of those plays was in the Bi-District round of the postseason against El Paso Riverside.
With both teams battling it out in overtime, the Steers needed to put the ball in the end zone following a stop by Big Spring’s defense. It was the beginning of the third overtime and Baeza had just tossed an interception on the last drive. He showed off his short memory - which is vital for a starting quarterback - and powered his way through the Riverside defense on a designed run that put the Steers inside the 5-yard line. A couple plays later, Baeza rolled out to his right and delivered a perfectly thrown pass to wide receiver Pablito Dehoyos in the corner of the end zone.
That first round playoff matchup was one of Baeza’s best performances of the season as he accounted for five total touchdowns.
Just like that, the Big Spring Steers had locked up their first winning season in six years and were bringing the Bi-District Gold Ball back to ‘The Spring’.
COAHOMA - RB BRYSEN KERBY
Coahoma junior running back and team captain Brysen Kerby just finished up his extremely impressive 2020 regular season with 1,504 rushing yards, 183 receiving yards, and 24 touchdowns. He is a hard-nosed runner that keeps his legs moving through the whistle, does not shy away from contact, and runs north and south to always get the most yardage possible.
“He had an awesome year,” Head Coach Chris Joslin said. “It’s been great to see him mature over the last three years with his body. He has really bought-in to the weight room.”
Kerby used the past Covid-filled offseason to get stronger and improve his body. He decided to set up his own weight room at home over the summer and when all of the players returned, Joslin was thrilled with the mass his star running back had put on.
“Me and him just talked the other day and the main thing was - as many times as he carried the ball this year, his body held up really well because of the bulk that he had put on. He was able to keep his speed,” Joslin said.
When speaking to Kerby, he comes off as a humble and intelligent high school student. He usually defers any personal praise to how well the entire team has been playing, and the first words that Head Coach Chris Joslin uttered about him to this reporter seemed to be spot on.
“He definitely is a great player, but he is an even better young man,” Joslin said.
While Kerby may not be one to toot his own horn, the humble playmaker has undoubtedly proven himself to be one of the best running backs in all of West Texas during the course of this season. Of course, he cannot produce those types of numbers all by himself, and Kerby would be the first one to tell you that. The entire Coahoma team has played with a chip on their shoulders all season-long, and it shows with the way they play on Friday night’s.
“The main thing that excites me and makes me overall happy is the fact that so many people said that we wouldn’t do very well this year since we lost so many people last spring. All of the guys that we have all stepped up and they’re doing their jobs. They’re all doing it to the best of their ability and that leads to the success of any individual person on the team,” Kerby said.
As a sophomore, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back carried the ball 114 times for 778 yards (6.8 avg) and scored 17 total touchdowns. Head Coach Chris Joslin knew before this season started that getting the ball into his Kerby’s hands would be a vital part to their offensive game-plan in 2020.
“This past season, he was the only junior that was voted a team captain and it’s because of his work ethic,” Joslin said. “We’re going to lean on him not just on the offensive side next year, but for his leadership as well. I just got a text from him over the holiday weekend that he’s ready to get back to work. That’s the dedication it takes. With as good a football player as he is, and he’s one of the best we’ve had around here, he’s an even better young man.”
FORSAN - RB NATE HERNANDEZ
After an injury derailed his sophomore season, Forsan running back Nate Hernandez hit the gridiron with redemption on his mind. The powerful back was able to bounce back with a season where he rushed for 858 yards and a whopping 14 touchdowns. Both of these were team-high’s and allowed Forsan coach Jason Phillips to rely on his power-rushing attack all-season long.
“I thought he had a great year on both sides of the ball,” Phillips said. “Luckily, we’re blessed with several guys that carry the ball for us but he’s our power back. When we want tough yards, that’s who we go to. He’s a physical runner and I thought he had a great year.”
Hernandez really began to heat up during the district portion of the schedule this year. He had four 100-yard rushing games during district play this year that led to two wins over McCamey and Stamford. He was also the top performer in two hard-fought losses to Anson and Hawley where he also rushed for over 100 yards.
The junior running back is apart of a rushing committee with Forsan, as backfield-mate Chris Mendez and quarterbacks Sawyer Stallings and Major Stockton also do their part on the ground. While those three players are quicker than Hernandez, they do not bring the physicality that he does in between the tackles.
“Those other three guys aren’t built for running between the tackles like Nate is. They’re more edge players. But if you asked Nate, I’m positive he’d rather run inside the tackles. He likes contact and we like to get him running downhill,” Phillips said.
Hernandez did not have a full offseason to work with last year as he recovered from an injury, but that will not be the same story this offseason. The powerful back will be returning for his senior year and can be expected to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark next fall.
Even though he shares backfield duties, Hernandez should come back next fall stronger, faster, and more-determined to lead the Forsan Buffs as a senior.
“I’m looking for him to get even bigger and stronger,” Phillips said. He had to miss part of the offseason and some of the weight room stuff this past year. I think if he can have a good offseason and hit the weights hard, the sky is the limit for him. He’s got such a great work ethic and I think he’ll have a great offseason which will lead to another great season on the field next year.”