Pictured: Jason Alvarez (9) celebrates with lineman John Gallegos after a touchdown in Friday night's 40-0 win against the Robstown Cotton Pickers. The victory put Alice in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Photo by PETE GARCIA
Pete Garcia, Alice Echo-News Journal
It was a long time ago, but A.J. Benavides can remember the Alice Coyotes' last playoff game.
The Alice High School junior was only a sixth grader when the Coyotes hosted San Antonio Roosevelt in the area round of the 2001 Class 4A playoffs.
Now, Benavides is the Coyotes' starting quarterback and he fulfilled a lifelong dream by helping get Alice back in the postseason Friday night.
"I went to all of those games growing up, and I always dreamed about being the quarterback for the Coyotes," Benavides said. "I've been a quarterback since playing youth football, and I've always dreamed about wearing these colors and helping the Coyotes back into the playoffs."
Benavides threw three touchdown passes in a 40-0 win against Robstown which put the Coyotes in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Alice is set to face Edcouch-Elsa in the bi-district round of the Class 4A playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Edcouch-Elsa.
Third-year Alice head coach Brent Davis said the experience of the state playoffs is one this team deserves.
"These seniors deserve (the playoffs)," Davis said. "They've been in our program since they were freshmen and they've been in our program this whole time and they've worked their butts off and they deserve to be here."
Returning Alice to the playoffs was also one of Davis' goals for the program when he arrived in Alice in 2005.
"It's been since 2001 and that's a long time for Alice," Davis said. "When (Alice ISD superintendent) Mr. (Henry) Herrera hired me, he said we gotta get in the playoffs again, and I told him we were going to do everything we could to get that done. It took us a little bit longer than I wanted, but we're here now."
And now that the Coyotes are in the playoffs, Davis said it's time to win a postseason game.
"We're not just going to go to the playoffs," Davis said. "We're going to win some games. We're not just happy just getting in. We feel like we have a good football team and we're peaking at the right time and our defense is excellent. We're here to win."
After the decisive win against the Cotton Pickers, players, coaches and the hundreds of the Alice faithful who made the short drive to Robstown celebrated on the field.
Some took photographs while some players looked for unsuspecting coaches to dump ice water on.
The celebration which lasted more than 30 minutes on the field was fitting after the long and sometimes difficult season.
"It's been a real tough season," Benavides said. "We've had our ups and downs, but in the end we came away with a win and we're in the playoffs."
Playoff tickets go on sale beginning Tuesday at the ticket office at Memorial Stadium.
On that day, 10-game season ticket holders can buy their tickets between 1 and 4 p.m. The ticket office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. for five-game ticket holders.
The general public can purchase their tickets from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.