Thursday, May 28, 2020
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20190810 PioneerFootballChange is inevitable, but the Pioneer Diamondbacks are out to prove an offseason of moves won’t stop the team’s winning ways.

Tommy Lee, Pioneer’s athletic coordinator and new head coach, was tabbed to lead the program back in January after former head coach Jason Wheeler was reassigned at the conclusion of last season. With head coaching experience at Mission High from 2003 to 2008, followed by years as an assistant at Sharyland High under his belt, Lee said he’s excited to take over a young, talented Pioneer team with high expectations in 2018.

“I’m excited about the opportunity that was presented to me,” Lee said. “I’m excited about the kids we have; we’re going to be a young team, but it’s going to be a fun team to coach. We have high expectations here in Sharyland, we expect big things to happen.”

The Diamondbacks have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, even earning a share of the district title in 2016. A large part of that success was due to the play of All-District quarterback Jacob Rosales, who has since transferred to spend his senior year at Robert Vela High in Edinburg.

On the outside, some may be skeptical of the Diamondbacks replacing that production, but inside the Pioneer locker room, they’re confident they have the talent at the skill positions to make life easier for their new starting quarterback, sophomore Eddie Lee Marburger.

“He’s got lots of potential, he has a great arm,” said senior slot receiver Diego Perez. “I’m sure he’ll be a little bit nervous in his first few reps, but he’ll catch on and he’ll be a great varsity quarterback and I’m sure we’ll be able to help him with the weapons we have.”

The Diamondbacks will continue to run the spread offense, but Lee hopes to air the ball out more than in recent years. Marburger emerged as the guy in spring ball and will enter the season under center for Pioneer. With senior weapons on the outside like Perez, Roel Cajero and Diego Benavides, Lee believes his veteran receiving corps will be valuable on-and-off the field.

“I think those seniors we have playing receiver are going to be big for us and for our young receivers, just giving us some experience, some maturity, and I think just being coaches on the field because they’ve been doing it so long,” Lee said. “Those guys are going to be valuable for our quarterback and young receiving core.”

The Diamondbacks are changing things up on the other side of the ball as the defense will run a 3-4 scheme in 2018. With three returning starters on the defensive line in seniors Alonso Ibarra, Obed Hernandez and Darek Lopez, Lee says the guys up front will have to be the team’s anchor.

Senior outside linebacker Parker Barrett said he’s expecting good things from the 3-4 scheme and is ready to hunt down opposing quarterbacks.

“The 3-4 is going to be pretty good, run-wise and pass-wise,” Barrett said. “I think we’ll have a good pass rush with everyone’s experience in there.”

Another change is the new district Pioneer is a part of, District 16-5A Division II.

The seven-team district includes the Diamondbacks, along with traditional Valley powerhouses like Edcouch-Elsa, Mercedes, and of course, the rival Sharyland Rattlers.

“We know they’re all about winning, and they’re great ball clubs,” said Cajero, who posted 730 receiving yards in 2017 to go with 10 touchdown catches. “Playing them is only going to get us better, so I’m looking forward to playing them.”

Even after all the changes, the Diamondbacks remain focused on one thing: winning.

“Coach Lee is all about winning, so we want to keep up the winning ways,” Cajero continued. “We’re just going to give it everything we got and do some great things here at Pioneer.”

The Pioneer Diamondbacks are scheduled to kickoff the 2018 regular season on the road Friday, August 31, against the Harlingen Cardinals at Boggus Stadium.

“It’s going to be exciting, that first game back,” Lee said. “I’ve been out for four years, it’ll be nice to step foot back on that field on a Friday night and see what the Diamondbacks can do.”