McALLEN — Josiah Alonzo loves the position he’s in this spring.
As a linebacker for the McAllen Rowe football team, he lines up across Warriors returning quarterback Jonas Ortiz during spring scrimmages and plays. The two even look their role — Ortiz is 6-foot-2, wears a bandana and has flair in his step and in his words. Alonzo stands 5-foot-10, has wide shoulders and talks about hitting others before they can hit them; he’s a blue collar defenseman from head to toe.
“We’re always competitive and there’s a lot of trash-talking,” Alonzo said. “It’s all about whose going to win the day.”
Ortiz has a different view.
“We all know that I’m better on my side of the ball,” he said with a smirk. “At the end of the day, it’s more of a challenge for them.”
That could be the key for the upcoming McAllen Rowe season: can the defense get other offenses off the field quickly and get the ball back into what could be a potent Rowe offense?
“We are expecting a lot from Josiah,” coach Bobby Flores, in his fourth season at the helm, said. “We need him to be able to make reads, to line up the defense as needed and to come out with a lot of energy all the time. We need him to be a coach, a quarterback on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year the defense allowed 75 points in the first five games of the year, an average of 14 points per game, including 28 in a loss to Weslaco. The Warriors were 4-1 at that point. They gave up almost 30 points per game in the final six games, going 1-5 during that span to finish the year at 5-5.
When it comes down to it, the games will be in the hands of the offensive and defensive lines and the Rowe offensive line brings back much experience with guards Aalok Zimmerman and Jacob Mata, Gilbert Garza at center and Daniel Alejandro working at tackle. Their goals are to give Ortiz time to run or pass to targets like wide receiver David Savage, or open holes for returning back Lorenzo Lopez to shoot through.
“Our offense is based on several people having to do their jobs so Jonas’ numbers could vary depending on the defense,” Flores said. “He will be more consistent in his passing game and we’re expecting he’ll be more accurate on play action. We’re also going go get him the ball more on the ground.”
“I’m trying to be smarter this year, trying to make better reads,” said Ortiz, who missed the last two games of the year with an injury. “The key to our offense is keeping a fast tempo, using our quickness and tiring out other teams.”
The offenses throughout District 30-6A last year were as varied as any district from high-flying offenses like PSJA North and PSJA High, to a mixed bag from McAllen Memorial and Mission High, to the ground-and-pound of La Joya. Flores said that Alonzo will need to guide the defense and be ready for many looks.
“We need to tackle well,” Flores said. “And we need to execute on both side of the ball. Of course we want our offense to score high and the defense to not allow a lot of points, but ideally we’d like to stop the ground and pound and get the ball back to our offense and be explosive.”
Flores and the rest of the Warriors will get their best look at how they fare — against one another at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the spring game, which is open to the public at McAllen Rowe.