'It was fun to watch': Epi Hinojosa's historic night sets tone for Calallen's season

Rey Castillo
Corpus Christi Caller Times

Epi Hinojosa could have easily given up playing football when things didn't go his way in middle school.

Hinojosa struggled with the sport and was even questioned by others if he should continue playing. 

Hinojosa's teammates and coaches are glad the Calallen running back chose the latter, especially after his performance against Gregory-Portland in Calallen's season opener at Wildcat Stadium last week. 

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Hinojosa rushed for more than 300 yards –– 313 and two touchdowns to be exact –– in a 41-19 win to set the tone for Calallen's season and Hinojosa's junior year. 

“My first year playing football, I wasn’t good and my coach wanted to take me out," Hinojosa said. "The following season, I started getting better and I wanted to try playing at the varsity level.”

Hinojosa's motivation came from wanting to prove others wrong and watching others excel.

He made a commitment at the end of eighth grade to earn a spot on the varsity level in high school.

Hinojosa did that and was named to the team as a sophomore.

"I always noticed everyone was better than me and I got tired of it," Hinojosa said. "It pushed me harder to work hard. Here at Calallen, everyone is family. We all bring each other up when we’re down. It’s a good school.”

Calallen's Epi Hinojosa scores against Gregory-Portland at Ray Akins Wildcat Stadium in Portland, Texas on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021.

As a Corpus Christi native, Hinojosa grew up watching the Wildcats, hoping one day he could be a part of it. 

With his performance against G-P, Hinojosa moved into fifth place for the most rushing yards by a Calallen running back in program history. 

Hinojosa set up Calallen's big night after running 82 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game. 

“It’s kind of the next man up," said Calallen defensive coordinator Steve Campbell. "Everyone in high school has to face that. When you lose talented running backs like Jeremiah Earls and AJ Brown, it was time for Epi to step up and show what he’s got.”

Campbell, who is also the Wildcats' boys track coach, said he's always been a fan of Hinojosa after coaching him in the spring the last two seasons. 

After watching him help Calallen win team titles and record individual medals, Campbell knew the success would carry over onto the football field. 

"I’ve seen that he has good speed and he’s a strong young man, too," Campbell said. "It was a matter of time for him to break out and for people to see what he’s capable of doing.”

Calallen's Epi Hinojosa runs for a touchdown against Gregory-Portland, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, at Ray Akins Wildcat Stadium. Hinojosa ran for 82 yards.

Hinojosa's performance against G-P complimented 614 rushing yards as a team for the Wildcats' best rushing performance in program history. 

Hinojosa's historic night earned him the Class 4A Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week.

“It’s a really great feeling,” Hinojosa said. “I never thought I’d be that high in the ranks. Hopefully there’s more coming up this season. We still have a little bit of things to work on, but it's going to be interesting... I never thought putting in the work would show the numbers I have now.”

Hinojosa said he wants to put the Wildcats' win against G-P in the rearview mirror, but plans to carry over his success into Week 2 against Jourdanton. 

The Indians are coming off a 20-14 loss to Natalia. 

“Hopefully I can put up bigger numbers and work on the little things in practice," Hinojosa said. "We have to leave what happened last week behind and move on.”

High school football: Calallen pulls away from Gregory-Portland behind Hinojosa's 300-yard night

High school football: Calallen, Refugio open season atop Corpus Christi area high school football power rankings

Rey Castillo is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and a graduate of Texas A&M-Kingsville. He may be reached at rey.castillo@caller.com or on Twitter @reycastillo361.