Class 5A Notebook: Flour Bluff Hornets new faces making early impact

Quinton Martinez
Corpus Christi Caller Times

In high school football, playoff rematches are rare. Especially with teams from your own district.

Last season, Flour Bluff played Victoria West in Week 11 in a COVID-19-rescheduled game to end the regular season. Three weeks later the Hornets and Warriors met in a tight playoff game.

Friday, for the third time in the span of eight games over two seasons, Bluff and West clashed, this time to open District 15-5A Division I.

The Hornets defense forced five turnovers and used them to speed past the Warriors 66-13 and into a tie for first place in district play after Week 1.

"Defensively, I think we are taking advantage of some things, and people turning the ball over," Flour Bluff coach Chris Steinbruck said. "I think we scored on six out of first eight possessions against West. Defensively we didn't return a bunch of starters, but we returned a lot of guys with experience.

"Playing into the fourth round last year, at some point a lot of these guys played in some big time situations. They've got quite a bit of experience. I'm most pleased with the play of our defense. Our (starters) have only given up 13 points in three games."

The Hornets had four starters back on offense and five on defense, but are plus-8 in turnover margin this season with seven fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

Turnovers were pivotal Friday as Flour Bluff scored more points (66) than any team had ever scored against Victoria West.

Flour Bluff's Ben Escamilla and Cameron DeJong make a tackle against Laredo Alexander on Sept. 3, 2021 at Hornet Stadium.

And in addition to their relative inexperience, the Hornets are also relying on youth, more than any time since Steinbruck has been at Flour Bluff.

Flour Bluff has five freshman on its varsity roster that have made an impact including key playmaker Cameron Johnson at running back, to complement junior JoJo Martinez.

"JoJo has been phenomenal and Cameron Johnson has been tremendous," Steinbruck said. "They've been a great 1-2 punch for us. I can't say enough about where Cameron is at. We have five freshman on varsity and all of them have contributed way more than people might have anticipated before the season."

Martinez is averaging 117 yards a game and Johnson 62 to lead the powerful Hornets rushing attack.

"The most (freshmen) we've ever had on varsity is one at a time so this is super rare," Steinbruck said. "That freshman class is super talented. One (Jayden Paluseo) is our backup quarterback, but the other four — Johnson, Cameron Dickson, Andre Mimms, Marcus Jones — are all making an impact. It is fun to see them out there contributing."

Steinbruck said the team as a whole has confidence as it heads into this week's matchup with King at Hornet Stadium.

Flour Bluff running back JoJo Martinez carries the ball against Victoria West in the District 15-5A Division I opener at Memorial Stadium, Sept. 10, 2021.

"As a team, all three units have confidence in each other that when we have the opportunity we are going to make plays," Steinbruck said. "Our offense knows if they make a mistake, defense is going to bail them out and vice versa. We have to continue to improve. There are still things we need to do a much better job of."

NO QUARTER

The first week of District 15-5A Division I play saw four lopsided scores as the victors won by an average margin of 48 points.

The only non-playoff team from 2020 that won in the first week of district play was Gregory-Portland as the Wildcats continue to show marked improvement from week to week.

One team is guaranteed to pick up its first win when Moody and Ray clash and the winner between 1-0 teams Victoria East and Veterans Memorial will be guaranteed to stay in first place for at least another week. 

WATCH OUT

After being limited to eight catches and one touchdown in the first two weeks of the season, All-South Texas receiver Cameron De La Pena was a force in Friday's win against King.

The three-year starter caught seven passes for 82 yards and three touchdowns in the win against the Mustangs and also was a factor on special teams.

De La Pena had 85 return yards on kickoffs and punts, helping Vets win the field position battle.

Quinton Martinez covers all things sports in South Texas. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe