For a soccer program that has had Steve Martinez as its coach the past three seasons, the IDEA Frontier Chargers have made some great strides.
Overall, the boys soccer program at IDEA Frontier has been going 10 years and has qualified for the playoffs six times, including this season.
When Martinez took over as coach in 2018, the team didn’t win a game and tied once. There were seven wins and a trip to the playoffs in 2019. This season, the Chargers went 13-4 overall. They had a second-place finish in District 32-4A and qualified for the playoffs again with a 13-3 conference mark.
But because of the 2020 season’s early end in mid-March due to the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, there was no postseason, as per a mandate by the University Interscholastic League.
Martinez believes the Chargers could have displayed some strong soccer skills on the field and won in the playoffs had the postseason taken place this year.
He said one of the big pluses of the 2020 team, which graduates only three seniors, is many of his players have played together for a number of years since they were in youth leagues. The players’ camaraderie and comfort level with each other on the field is starting to show, he said.
“Yes, cohesion played an important role in our success, but it was also the sense of family among the players,” said Martinez, who is assisted by Christian Zamarripa. “The players decided in our first year (with me as coach) that whenever we would break from a team huddle, the new team motto would be ‘Familia.’ They wanted to be close, and nothing is closer than family.
“The guys have been with me three years now, and they’ve built trust in each other,” Martinez added. “Actually, last year was when I started feeling that we had a pretty good team. At the beginning of district (this year), I was expecting to go undefeated (and win 32-4A). That’s how confident I was in them as a team, their cohesion and the way they played the game.”
The Chargers’ starting lineup includes goalkeeper Jose Mendieta, defensive right back Luis Duron, defensive center back Jorge Chavira, defensive left back Roberto Campos, midfielders Frank Hernandez, Christian Hernandez, Bryan Hernandez, Juan Ortiz and Marco Ruiz, and forwards Juan Franco and Alejandro Garfias. Franco also played in the midfield.
Helping off the bench were midfielders Cesar Perez and Rogelio Covarrubias, plus forward Jorge Aguirre.
Mendieta, Duron and Ruiz were the Chargers’ three seniors. Mendieta and Franco served as team captains.
Chavira was named defensive MVP of District 32-4A this season, and Franco and Bryan Hernandez were voted all-district first-teamers.
“Our team has been pretty competitive,” said Franco, a junior three-year starter. “We have a lot of togetherness. All of our teams have given a lot of effort. We’re just getting better and becoming more competitive.
“Everybody has been putting more dedication into the team,” added Franco, who was second on the squad with 14 goals this season just behind Garfias’ 15. “Each one had his goal to get better. That’s basically why we finished up there in second place in district. Everybody got themselves ready to get there.
“Next season we’re planning to come back stronger because it will be another year that we’ll be playing together. We have been playing together for years now, and I’m expecting everybody to put even more dedication into the team next season. It’s surprising how we have progressed. The team and the school have seen our improvement.”
The Frontier coach said it’s been rewarding to witness how much the team has gotten better since 2018.
“We’re finally coming around,” he said. “It’s been tough, but these players definitely have put in the work.
“We have the majority of the team coming back next year,” he added. “I only lose three seniors. We have a pretty even number of players from each grade level. This year (besides three seniors) we had five juniors, five sophomores and a few freshmen. We’re getting five freshmen (who could help us) next year, so we’re pretty well-balanced as far as the grade levels of our players in the program.”
The Frontier coach likes to remind his players from time to time just how far they’ve come.
“I tell these guys it’s a huge deal that they’ve improved so much,” Martinez said. “We would have been the second seed from our district if we had gotten to go to the playoffs. Last year we were the fourth seed.
“The players don’t really understand the difficulty it has been to be as good as we are now,” he added. “We don’t have an athletic period, and every single one of these guys takes advanced-level classes. They not only take (Advanced Placement) classes, but as juniors and seniors, they take (International Baccalaureate) classes, which are very rigorous. On top of that, they still have to go to tutorials, do all their classwork and then they’re still expected to go to practice.
“They’ve come a long way in just (the) three years (I’ve been with the team).”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated and reposted to correct information provided to The Brownsville Herald.