7:30 p.m. Friday at Dahaher Field, Corpus Christi
RADIO: 1410 AM (Victoria)
Roland Gonzalez is not the type of football coach to heap praise on a player before the season starts.
But, in August, before Victoria East's football season started, the head coach specifically cited Albert Longoria for his tenacity and on-field intelligence. That was before Gonzalez had a chance to see the senior in game that counted.
Through nine games that assessment hasn't changed, if anything the senior has been one of the few constants in the Titans defense this fall.
"He's been a pleasure. He's been very accountable. He has a great motor and plays 100 percent on every play," Gonzalez said. "It's really important on defense and we feel that allows him to bring some intangibles to the table."
Longoria, 17, is the middle five children to Albert Sr. and Laura Longoria. He credits his parents for teaching him how to become a man and other attributes that are noticeable through football.
Albert has yet to teach too many life lessons, but he is passing along the finer tips of football to younger brother, Alex, who plays for East's freshman team.
Albert started the season at outside linebacker. But recently there was a recent switch to safety. Regardless, Longoria will likely be busy Friday night when the Titans (3-6, 2-3) face Calallen (7-2, 4-1) to wrap up the regular season.
Their record may not be the most flattering, but with a win, and some help, the Titans could sneak in the playoffs as the fourth seed from District 30-4A.
"It's been everything I expected and more, just coming out and having another season," Longoria said about a senior season where he leads the team with 82 tackles. "I know we didn't do the best, but we, hopefully, will finish the season strong and continue to play. I don't' want to be the first team to not make it."
To date, Longoria's favorite memory was beating Victoria West this year. That was another situation where the Titans wanted to continue a tradition of success.
One team Victoria East doesn't have success against is Calallen. Last year the Wildcats shutout the Titans at Phil Danaher Field - the only time in 34 games Victoria East has failed to score.
"Last year we were blown out," Longoria recalls. "Going into Calallen it's a tough stadium and a tough crowd. You have to come out and play. You know what they will do and they are good at what they do. You just have to come out and execute."
Though listed at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, his teammates have come to rely on the diminutive, yet demonstrative, Longoria to not only execute, but instill a belief others can do the same.
"He's got a lot of leadership. He has a fire in him that the other players don't have," said senior linebacker Jace Mitchell. "He's intense and it's been fun to play with him the last four years."
"I can honestly say that your mind can do wonders," Longoria said. "Anything you put your mind to, whether it's picking up your teammates when they are down, or just leading your team."
Mitchell and Longoria played together on the freshmen team at Memorial. Then, both boys were promoted to the junior varsity, before becoming full-fledged members of the varsity last year.
When Longoria originally moved to the varsity he was a linebacker. Though the Titans have yet to play in the same defensive scheme for two straight years, Longoria said dropping into coverage as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense last year helped him become a well-rounded linebacker.
Longoria's teammates and coaches say he plays with an intensity that cannot be extinguished. Unsurprisingly, Longoria looks up to another linebacker whose peers say similar things about him in NFL All-Pro Patrick Willis.
"His tenacity and his effort on the field and how he goes after the ball," Longoria said. "He's not going to just make a play, but he's going after the ball and trying to make turnovers on defense. He plays with heart and you obviously see that in his stats."
What Albert doesn't realize is people say the same thing about him.
"Some players try to say 'Oh, I'm too small. He won't say that,'" Mitchell said. "He'll take on someone no matter how big they are."