“Different doesn’t mean bad,” has been the main message since Ryan Roecker took over as head football coach and athletic director at Wallis Brazos.
“It’s kind of a unique situation when you get a head job, the situation before may not have gone the way they wanted so they’re looking for a change,” Roecker said. “This one, they’ve had success so coming in and degrading the success they had is not the way to go. We come in and build them up and compliment on the success they’ve had and take it to the next level.”
The success he speaks of are the three consecutive playoff appearances, the most recent of which served as the longest run in over two decades after the eventual state champion Mason Punchers ended things for the Cougars in the regional semifinal.
The new Brazos head football coach is not so unfamiliar to filling multiple roles while head coaching a smaller-classification football team. His first head coaching job came in December of 2008 with the Palmer Bulldogs of Class 3A but his most recent position was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Anahuac Panthers, who also participate Class 3A.
“In 15 years of coaching I’ve spent nine at a small school and when you’re at a small school, it’s all hands on deck,” Roecker said after officially being named head coach at the June 11 meeting of the Brazos ISD Board of Trustees. “While I’ve been an offensive coordinator, I was probably the only quarterback/3-technique coach in the state.”
He brings those talents, along with parts of his own staff, and his new style of coaching with him, which although may be different, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better or worse than his predecessor.
“We’ve kept elements, we’ve added elements of our own, they’re having to learn new ways of doing things from the past three years to how we expect it to be done,” Roecker said. “It hasn’t been a big issue, kids are excited to be back out here and they’re excited to be at work.”
All that work is no problem but when it’s still on your own teammates, it can wear down a team so the coach added the team’s excitement for a real opponent to line up across from them.
“It’s kind of like a dog on a chain, we’ve been working and I’m ready to get to play someone else and let the dog off the chain and see how we are,” Roecker said. “See our real mechanics and our realness to how we play, it’s easy to go against someone who’s not superior to you but when you line up against a total stranger it adds a different dynamic so I’m looking forward to how we respond in those types of moments and that will reveal a lot as to what we need to improve on as we chase championships.”
Of course, things can’t fly all the way off the hinge off the bat, and the coach provided an example as to how disciplined this brand of Cougars will be.
“The biggest thing is learning a different way is not bad; we’re learning them they’re learning us, they’ve got a great work ethic, when it’s tough they rise to the occasion so the biggest thing is becoming mentally tough situationally,” Roecker said.
He compared his situation in Brazos to the movie “300” about the Spartans taking on the Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae.
“The 300 was only 300 for a reason, it could have been 18,000 but there were only 300 that were qualified so setting that standard and going to meet that bar so we’re not dropping down, they’re raising up,” he said.
Also looking to play a role in elevating this year’s football season at Brazos is the swagger this group has developed coming off the last few years, explained Roecker.
“I think the confidence, they’ve had some success so there’s a little bit of swagger to them, not arrogance but swagger that they know they can be good if they do what they need to do,” he said.
“One of our strengths is going to be the offensive line, we’re returning some key guys; Edward Hatton Hayden Pearson, D.J. Lewis, Connor Macha, Drake Aguilar, August Hale,” Roecker said. “You can draw up any scheme in the world you want but if you don’t have the dudes to get after it then it doesn’t get you very far,” Roecker said.
Behind that formidable wall of protection will be Jaylin Vela, returning to run the offense one more year.
“Vela’s been taking snaps for us as electric and dynamic as he is for us; Malcolm Toles and Ira Minters have been at tailback for us, that’s a good three-headed monster right there,” Roecker said.
The first tests will come in the form of scrimmages against Hitchcock and Boling before the Cougars are finally let off the chains for real on Aug. 30 at Fort Bend Christian Academy in Sugar Land.