Big plays are often the difference in football games, and against Laredo Alexander last year that difference-making play came on the opening kickoff.

Alexander kicked the ball deep to return man Alice Sean Molina who weaved his way to an opening and then sprinted to the end zone for a touchdown. Just like that, seconds into the game, the Coyotes were up by a score.

What followed was four quarters of competitive and well-matched football. That’s what Alice coach Kyle Atwood remembers the most from last year’s season opener against the Bulldogs.

“We were able to score on the kickoff, but really besides that, we struggled to get our offense going against them. We ended up winning, but that kickoff return for a touchdown was the difference. Other than that, it was a dogfight for the rest of the game.”

That’s the kind of game Atwood expects this Friday when Alexander and Alice kickoff the new football season in Memorial Stadium.

“They’re a really good football team,” he said. “Alexander got better last year as the season went on, and they went two rounds in the playoffs.”

The Bulldogs finished the 2017 season 6-6, but they were 5-2 in district play. Alexander was a Class 6A, Div. II area finalist. Before losing a 21-18 decision to Weslaco in the area playoffs, the Bulldogs won five-straight games thanks to a surging offense and a solid defense. What’s more is the Bulldogs are returning with the bulk of last year’s starting group.

On offense, Alexander has two quarterbacks in Matt Connor and Jose Rodriguez. The two quarterbacks saw about equal playing time last year and finished the season with a combined 2,169 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. They have a big-time receiver in Albert Laurel, who led the team a year ago with 884 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The Bulldogs also have running back Camilo Pedraza back in the backfield. He led the team in rushing last year with 952 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Alexander has more returning starters on defense, including linebacker Santino Palizo and defensive back Andrew Gonzalez. Palizo led the team last year with 114 tackles and Gonzalez had four interceptions.

Atwood said Alice should match-up well against Alexander, and he's encouraged by what he saw in the Coyotes' scrimmage against Flour Bluff Friday.

“We feel like we’re doing really well. We’re excited about where we’re at and how things looked in the scrimmage,” Atwood said. “The kids are continuing to improve and they’re in the right state of mind. They’ve really been focused this week. They've come to practice each day with the mindset of getting better.”

The Coyotes are also expecting to use two quarterbacks in senior Devyn Orta and junior Isaiah Aguilar. Both were able to throw and run the ball in Alice’s scrimmage against Flour Bluff.

In 2017, Orta saw some playing time at the position and completed the season with 122 yards in passing and two touchdowns. He started the majority of the season at receiver where he had 19 catches for 440 yards and one touchdown. Aguilar spent some time on varsity at the end of the season.

Handling the bulk of the receiving duties are A.J. Moreno, Domingo Mendoza and Waylon Moore.

The Coyotes are also relying a pair of running backs in Ismael Cantu and R.J. Salaiz.

Defensively, Alice is led by senior free safety Sean Chapa, who was also an all-state selection as a punter last season. Chapa is coming off his junior season in which he had 57 tackles and three interceptions. The secondary also includes Weston Moore, Miguel Gonzalez and Guzman.

Alice linebackers include Ray Davila, Mario Gariby and Aaron Arellano.