‘Team first’ culture driving Austin into 2021 football season

High School Sports

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It wasn’t too long ago Austin High School was posting winless football seasons — now the Panthers are competing for district championships.

Eric Pichardo took over the Austin football program in 2017. The Panthers were coming off back-to-back winless seasons and didn’t show much promise. In Pichardo’s first four seasons as the head coach, Austin has gone 25-15 (14-8) and captured a district and bi-district championship in 2018.

“We don’t rely on talent a whole lot — even though we have had talent in the past — instead, we’ve relied on team unity, team defense and running the football,” said Pichardo. “If you’re an individual, you aren’t going to do real well here. But if you believe in team unity and team championships instead of individual awards, you are in the perfect place.”

In last year’s pandemic-shortened season, Austin finished 4-3 (2-1) and lost to Parkland by two touchdowns in the first round of the playoffs. This year’s team will be junior-heavy, and the players feel like they have the ability to translate their ‘team first’ mentality into wins.

“We all want to win. It’s a brand new season and we all want to win. Simple,” said junior quarterback Irving Cortinas. “We know what we can do and we have the talent to do it. We just have to put it all together and we’ll have good results.”

Austin will open the 2021 season against Horizon on Friday, Aug. 27. The season premiere of the award-winning high school football wrap-up show, 9 Overtime, will also be on Friday, Aug. 27.

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