The story of Sonora Bronco football. One town, one team chasing a sixth state title. None
“Winning is not a sometime thing. It is an all the time thing. Don’t win once and a while. You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, losing is too,” Jeff Cordell, head coach, said.
The goal is to first be undefeated, then win the state championship. The Sonora Broncos are a Class 3A football team in a small West Texas town that lives in the tradition of winning. They’ve got five state championships and fight every day to get closer to the sixth.
Last year, the Broncos were two wins away from the playing for the program's sixth state title. The Canadian Wildcats ended the Broncos season on chilly December 2 night in Lubbock winning, 27-21.
Now, on Aug. 7, 2017, marks the first day of two-a-days for the Sonora Broncos.
As summer flew by, it was exciting for coaches to see plenty of familiar faces around the field house. Coaches pointed out individuals on the team who showed outstanding commitment by working out every day during the dog days of summer.
As they put last year’s motto, “Chase for Seis,” behind them, they focus on the same goal, saying, “Leave No Doubt.” Meaning, each player has all the possibilities to go undefeated and to win state.
“Football is not the most important thing. Is winning a game on Thursday night or Friday night define you as a young man? No, it doesn’t. Just because you win a game doesn’t make you a winner. Just because you lose a game doesn’t make you a loser. How you carry yourself on a daily basis is what defines you.”
To start two-a-days, the coaching staff started by challenging the players with a conditioning test, allowing the staff to gage the work ethic of offseason workouts.
But one afternoon, the Broncos experienced the unknown during a two-a-days practice. It rained.
Coach Cordell said in his 20 plus years of coaching he's never been a part of a two-a-days that was delayed due to lighting. One player mentioned that it rarely even rains in Sonora.
Meet the Captains
The day it rained, the staff and players took advantage of that time to vote for the four players that would represent the team. Three of the four captains were voted by the team, as the fourth was picked amongst the coaches.
The criteria to be captain: lead by example. The one thing they all have in common: they never missed a day to better themselves for the sake of the team. The role as captain comes with more responsibility and accountability.
Wesley Dutton, Jarret Jackson, Kaden Cordell and coachs’ pick, Christian Ramon, have this honor.
For Kaden, his first honorable mention this preseason happened in the weight room, breaking the school power clean record. With the team’s support, Kaden power cleaned 265 pounds.
“It’s really exciting knowing I can power clean the most. Now it makes me want to go and work hard and strengthen my other lifts,” Kaden said.
Co-captain, Ramon, witnessed Kaden’s record, calling it impressive.
The Thoughts Behind the Plays
The coaching staff discussed strategically about where each player fits into the Broncos scheme. player goes in each position. “I just want to help this team win,” Coach Cordell said.
Players need to be flexible by being able to play whatever position coach needs them to fulfill, to prove they have the best interest for the team.
The players are pushing themselves past the limit, running until their legs are jelly and then taking another rep.
The biggest push from coach Cordell is that “every rep needs to be a championship rep.”
EXTRA - Sonora executes practice to perfection in a drill called perfect five. It didn't make the cut for the final Eleven piece, so here's a look at the drill. None
The #1 Fan
Rayonna Blackman, is easily Sonora Bronco’s number one fan. She’s at every game and is first on the field to give players her famous “bear hug.”
Blackman said, “I just love my Broncos. They are my favorite team.”
She was given the nickname “Ray-Ray,” as she cheers head to toe in red, wearing buttons with faces of her favorite players.
Even Kaden calls her the biggest fan as she runs up to him after games to congratulate him with a hug and smile.
Blackman said, “First I introduce myself and give them a bear hug.”
Even coach Cordell vouched for her support saying, “Every time I see her she gives you a big ol’ bear hug; squeezes the life out of you. You know, she’s a sweetheart and she’s just one of many people that bleed the red and white here at Bronco Nation. And we love those types of people and having them around. She’s one of the first people on the field after a game.”
Blackman says she’s meant to be a Sonora Broncos fan, “It’s just meant to be.”
But she’s just one of many people the Sonora Broncos have made an impact on.
A Community that Bleeds Red and White
“I think it’s crazy how all of the town loves Sonora football. If we ever made it to state again, the whole town would probably shut down,” Dutton said.
Radio announcer for KHOS, Vigil Burge says the people in Sonora are flat out proud of the Broncos as Friday nights are a big deal. He said watching them gives people a sense of pride to see that sportsmanship, winning tradition and desire through generations.
“You’re not going to find many people out on the street. Businesses on Friday night, they are all crowded here at Bronco Stadium, watching their Broncos. And it’s important,” Burge said.
As the football team embodies the town, it creates a tight-knit community where simply, everybody knows everybody. With Sonora being a small town, there’s not much to do, so when Friday night rolls around, the town shuts down to meet at the high school stadium.
Burge describes it as, “electric.”
Kaden said, “Going out on a Friday night, you can tell it’s packed, there’s fans along the railing. Everybody is excited to come out Friday night.”
Sutton County Judge Steve Smith said the people in town have been planning for the first game of the season all summer.
“I know when I moved here, I went to the first few games and the crowd was there and they were into it. And this is the first place I’ve lived where winning was the tradition. It just didn’t happen one year, it’s there,” Smith said.
Taking What is Taught on the Field Home
Coach Cordell emphasizes on how the game is taught and played says a lot about a person’s character, and that character should always be held to the Broncos standard.
“The reason we are all in this business is number one, these kids. They understand the importance of football and they understand the importance of being a great individual. You know, that understands the importance of saying ‘yes ma'mm, no sir.’ When you got these kids, you work with on a daily basis, the yes’s and no’s take care of themselves. That’s the exciting part of this business, in the part that you wake up in the morning and you can’t wait to get to work,” said coach Cordell.
One example of taking character to the next level is Mark Chavez. He makes the grades, performs on the field and plans to fight for his county after graduation when he enlists in the United States Marine Corps.
Patrick Lopez, a Marine recruiter said that it’s Mark’s leadership skills that put him in the position to be in charge of new recruits. Lopez compares the bond created during recruitment training in the Marines to the relationships that are built on the football field.
Making a Difference as a Coach
Eddie Favila, wide receiver coach for the Sonora Broncos has a total of 33 years of coaching, 27 of them in
Sonora. He played at Jerry Hopkins, which he said was a great experience for him.
Coach Cordell said Favila is someone to lean on and go to for advice. “Anytime that you can have someone on staff that’s like that, it makes the entire organization better,” coach Cordell said.
The Pads are On
The second week of two-a-days means the players strap on the pads. There’s lots of energy on the field during practice when the guys suit up to take the extra hit. But for some, it’s sentimental as this is the last time for seniors to experience this moment.
As their first scrimmage approaches against the Mason Punchers, coach Cordell reminds the players that rankings are just a number.
During every game, practice, to every rep, is to be treated like a championship moment as the Broncos have a target on their backs.
Coach Cordell tell his players to “Play with passion and to play for each other.”
Coach Cordell said these scrimmages are used to evaluate their plays and the efforts of the players. Sometimes you can’t control the mistakes but you can the effort.
Coach Cordell said, “This community expects winning, especially football.”
In the end, all coach Cordell wants is his players to experience is playing on the star at AT&T Stadium.