CORPUS CHRISTI — It’s mid-afternoon on Monday, about two hours before the Miller Buccaneers take the field in downtown Corpus Christi for practice.
For coaches like Miller head coach Justen Evans, Mondays are always big days since it’s usually Day 1 of their team’s preparation for that week’s football game. However, there are some who would say that this Monday is more important than most because it leads up to a game that puts Evans on the same field with the same team he coached just a season ago.
Non-sense, says Evans. Instead of getting worked up or hyped about taking his Miller Bucs into Alice’s Memorial Stadium for a 30-5A North Zone game Friday night, Evans spent his time before Monday afternoon’s practice grabbing a late lunch.
Make no mistake about it, Alice is a big game for Miller and the Coyotes are someone the Bucs need to beat if they want to slide into one of the district’s end-of-the-season play-in games, but Evans said the game against his former team is important, but not unlike any other North Zone game.
“It’s a big game because it’s the next game we play,” Evans said. “It’s a game we’re also hoping to play well in. It’s a zone game, and it this zone, every game is a big game, no matter who you’re playing.”
Evans compared competing against the Coyotes to what it was like for him taking the job in Alice and coaching against his former coaches and athletes in Corpus Christi.
“It’s another game. I’m confident both teams will show up,” Evans said. “Coming into this week, I didn’t make it an Alice and coach Evans thing. I think when you do that, your kids tend to play out of character and then manufacture a lot of emotions. For us, we’re taking it as us against another good opponent.”
Alice and Miller are playing at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Alice is 1-0 in the North Zone after beating Ray and Miller is 0-1 after a loss to Gregory-Portland.
Evans spent the 2016 season leading the Alice program. Under his direction, the Coyotes had an explosive offense and finished the season 7-3 but short of the postseason. After months of speculation of him leaving Alice for a Corpus Christi job, Evans left the Coyotes to head up the Bucs’ program. In his short time at Miller, it’s safe to say Evans has changed the culture at Miller and has begun a turnaround of the program. Miller is 3-2 for the season. It’s the first time since 2013 that Miller has won multiple games in a single season.
Still, besides being the Bucs’ biggest fan, he is also the team’s biggest critic.
“Inconsistent,” Evans said to describe Miller this season. “With us, you’ll see a tale of two halves every game. We’ll struggle in the first half and then get things going in the second. We have yet to put a whole game together.”
Evans blamed his team’s knack for inconsistency on a roster depleted by injuries. He did say that going into the Alice game, the Bucs as a team are as healthy as they’ve been at any time this season.
Miller does have one of South Texas’ most potent passing games. Miller’s quarterback leads the Coastal Bend in passing. Joshua Vasquez has completed 89 of 152 attempts for 1,015 yards. He had 10 interceptions and 11 touchdowns. Last week, Miller’s freshman quarterback Andrew Body stepped in and passed for 279 yards.
The Bucs also have a trio of receivers who are good as in South Texas in Bubba Lloyd, Lazareth Franco and Cassus Clay. Lloyd is among the top receivers in the Coastal Bend with 26 catches for 485 yards and five touchdown catches. Franco has 29 catches for 408 yards and Clay has 17 catches for 279 yards.