As soon as Hunter Taylor released the football, Chris Ramirez knew where the pass going. He had watched enough Our Lady of the Hills football practices to know that when Taylor drops back to pass, good things tend to happen.
As Ramirez watched the ball sail through the air, he wasn’t surprised at all when Taylor’s pass eventually landed in the arms of James Ibarra in the back of the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown.
That catch occurred during a Hawks’ scrimmage on Aug. 24. Still, the moment was revealing. It all but affirmed the good vibes that Ramirez felt entering the season. Not only did the OLH head coach have the luxury of coaching a senior quarterback, but that same quarterback was surrounded by talented receivers.
“The way he threw with confidence was impressive,” Ramirez said on Monday. “He knew that James was going to be there. He trusted him to catch up to the ball and delivered a perfect pass in the back of the end zone.
“That (play) just kind of told me that (Taylor) is a senior quarterback who has been here and he knows his receivers. They have built a chemistry around each other.”
It’s been almost four weeks since Taylor made that pass, and opposing teams still haven’t figured out a way to slow down the Hawks’ passing attack. With Taylor at the helm, the Hawks are averaging 349.7 passing yards per game and 13.3 yards per attempt. As a result, the Hawks are 3-0 for the first time in the Ramirez era. They will look to remain unbeaten when they travel to play Medina on Friday.
“Our receivers are running really good routes — they are so sharp,” Taylor said. “Those routes are something that we run every single day in practice.”
Those same practice reps in the week are leading to results on Friday night. Taylor has victimized defenses through the air, completing 76 percent of his passes for 1,049 and 22 touchdowns.
It helps that he has options at receiver. Ibarra has snagged 16 receptions for 422 yards and 11 touchdowns. His other top wideout, Jake Chapman, has nine receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown. Luke Martinez has registered five passes for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
Then again, anyone who has followed OLH’s football program for the past six months shouldn’t be all that surprised by the Hawks’ torrid start to the season.
The Hawks experienced a productive off-season, making gains in the weight room. They followed that with a successful preseason. Multiple players joined the program during the summer and early fall, giving the Hawks’ 22 players on their roster. That depth led to more productive practices. Ramirez finally had enough players to organize a scout team to prepare his starters for upcoming games.
In the middle of August, the Hawks embarked on a team retreat to Camp La Junta. That trip also played a role in the Hawks’ success so far this season. There, the Hawks outlined their goals for the upcoming season. At one point, Taylor stood up and addressed his teammates. He wanted to make sure they had the
right mindset entering the season.
“It’s as much mental as it is talent,” he told his comrades. “If you work hard, and you’re mentally strong, then you are going to perform no matter what. If you believe before the game that we can win, then it’s going to be much easier to win than coming into the game scared.”
His message was received, as the Hawks have established early leads in each of their three victories, winning by an average margin of 39 points per game.”
The Hawks, though, haven’t luxuriated too much in their recent triumphs. They know the schedule intensifies from here. Their next two opponents — Medina and Leakey — are talented public schools. Then they begin TAPPS Division II - District 2 play, where they will play the reigning state champion (Waco Live Oak), the state runner-up (Bulverde Bracken Christian) and state quarterfinalist (New Braunfels Christian Academy).
“When district starts, it’s going to be a gauntlet of powerhouse opponents,” Ramirez said. “We are pleased with where we are at, but there are still things that we need to still work on and keep getting better at. We will take every opportunity to do so. …
Our focus is to be the best team we can be.”
But after their 79-29 victory over Round Rock Concordia last Thursday, the Hawks allowed themselves a moment to savor their accomplishment. Continuing a long-standing OLH tradition, the players went to Whataburger with the students who had attended the game.
The Hawks know they still have a long way to go before they accomplish their season goals. But on Thursday night, they were going to appreciate their undefeated start.
“It made that burger more enjoyable,” said Ibarra, laughing.
“I felt even better on Friday morning,” Taylor said. “Waking up 3-0.”