Manuel Almeda, left, and Adrian Martinez go through "the shoot" drill during practice at the Ganado practice field. The players were practicing blocking and trying to knock the other down.
If you go
Ganado Indians vs. Hallettsville BrahmasFriday, 7:30 p.m.Brahma Memorial Stadium in HallettsvilleLast meeting; Ganado won 32-7 in 2011Last season: Ganado went 11-1 and made it to the Class 1A, Division I Regional playoffs. Hallettsville went 7-6 and made it to the Class 2A, Division I Regional playoffs.
GANADO - This week marks the beginning of a new season and a new era for the Ganado Indians.
All-state standouts Josh Labay, Cade Cihal, Trey Thedford and Tyler Gorman graduated after last season, leaving the Indians to rebuild and look for new standouts and leaders in 2012.
"They definitely left a really great legacy here in Ganado and they left a winning tradition, we just want to carry that on," said junior running back and defensive back Clay Vesely.
The Indians open the season on Friday at Class 2A Hallettsville.
With a senior-laden team last season, the Indians were the top ranked team in the Class 1A poll most of the season and went 11-1. Ganado's only loss came in the regional playoffs to eventual state champion Mason.
All-state first teamers Labay, Thedford and Cihal leave the Indians with the most gaping holes offensively and defensively.
Last year, Labay rushed for a school record 2,316 yards and 32 touchdowns, Cihal set his own school record with 177 tackles and Thedford hauled in seven interceptions.
Ganado head coach Jimmy Thompson said it's a time of transition for the Indians where a lot of players who didn't have major roles on the team last year are going be asked to step up.
One of those is Vesely, who takes over at tailback for Labay. Even though the Indians are a split back team, the tailback gets the majority of the carries in Ganado's system.
"He's a different type back than Josh, but he's got great vision, (he's) more of a jitterbug than Josh (Labay)," Thompson said. "It's one of those things where we have to adjust our offense to what he can do, but I think he's going to have a great year for us."
Senior Kenny Kocian brings his 5-foot-10, 245-pound frame to the backfield after receiving an all-state honorable mention on the offensive line last year.
Thompson said he likes to have a big back and Kocian will take over as the bruising back for Gorman.
"Ever since I was young I was like 'Man I want to be a running back' then my senior year I'm a running back." Kocian said.
Senior tight end and defensive lineman Michael Garcia joins the Indians after transferring from Palacios in the spring semester.
Thompson said having Garcia in during offseason workouts helped him with the adjustment period in the fall.
"We're very ready," Garcia said. "Obviously we still need a little bit more work, but we'll be ready for Hallettsville."
Ganado's season ended with a 7-0 loss to Mason last year in New Braunsfels.
Although these Indians are fairly inexperienced, Thompson feels that offensively the team is more versatile than they were a year ago.
"I really feel like we're more balanced as far as our backs," Thompson said. "Last year, if I was coaching against us, I'd have to know when it got crucial that we were going to give it to Josh (Labay)."
The Indians and Brahmas kick off the season in Hallettsville on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Ganado will have to deal with the depth and experience Hallettsville has, particular from the skill positions.
The Brahmas return wide receivers Dalton Herrington Carson Schindler along with running back Teidrick Smith.
"They can throw the ball and they're fast," Kocian said. "We've got to be ready for their speed."
Last season the Indians beat the Brahmas 32-7.
Thompson said the non-district slate gives the coaching staff a chance to get comfortable with what the new and returning players can do and see how they can be successful when District 15-1A, Division I play begins.
This will be an early test for Ganado and Thompson said Hallettsville's as good any team the Indians will play all year.
"I think Hallettsville's going to open up our eyes," Thompson said. "I think they've going to show us what we have to do to be a good football team."