Looking ahead to a nine-game season, the varsity football team of TMI Episcopal has a lot going for it, said Head Football Coach Polo Gutierrez.
Gutierrez rates the Panthers’ strength highly. With two returning starters each on offense and defense – including juniors Ashton Dietzmann and Anthony Fletcher, who both earned all-state honors last year – their coach says, “We will be a young, but very athletic and hungry bunch.”
The team started daily early-morning practices Aug. 1 with Gutierrez and three new assistant coaches joining veteran assistant coach Leland Goertz. Quarterback coach Ray Purefoy is a retired military paratrooper who has been coaching in North Carolina for the past eight years; Quandre Washington, working with linebackers and running backs, is a former captain of the University of the Incarnate Word’s Division I football team; and Devon Gray, coaching wide receivers and defensive backs, has coached college ball at UIW, Tarleton State University and Blinn College.
TMI’s coaching staff “takes many different precautions in order to help alleviate unnecessary injuries in practice,” Gutierrez said. Players will wear all-new, custom-fitted Riddell Speed Flex helmets used by NFL, college and high-school players to reduce the risk of concussion by 33 percent, along with a guardian cap (padded helmet cover). To prevent heat-related illness, players are provided with rehydrating sports drinks before, during and after practice along with ice towels to wrap around their necks to reduce core body temperature.
The Panthers will play their first game Aug. 30 at home against St. Gerard Catholic High School.