SAN ANTONIO – Alamo Heights running back/slotback Deryl Reynolds was in the seventh grade when he started going to Mules football games with his father.
Reynolds’ family had moved into the Alamo Heights district from the Roosevelt High School attendance zone the year before. Deryl chuckled this week when he recalled his first impression of a Heights football game.
“I thought it was really old-fashioned and I liked it,” Reynolds said. “We’re a lot about tradition here. The stadium, compared to the other districts like the NEISD, isn’t as big. The people here are great. I loved the environment from the beginning, so it’s been great. Watching those games, I envisioned myself playing for Alamo Heights someday.”
Now a senior, Reynolds is in his third season on the Mules’ varsity and a key player for the San Antonio area’s only undefeated Class 5A team. Heights, 5-0 overall and 2-0 in District 26-5A, goes on the road to play Seguin (1-4, 0-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
No. 1 in the KENS 5 Sub-6A area rankings, the Mules are enjoying a bounce-back season after missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2002. Staying at home after advancing to the postseason for 12 consecutive years was a bitter pill for Reynolds and his teammates to swallow.
“We worked hard in the offseason because we didn’t want to experience that again,” Reynolds said. “After last season, our coaches told us, ‘Remember the feeling. Put the season behind you, but remember it so you have that feeling again.’ We changed some of the things we did in the offseason, like a lot of our lifts in the weight room, and the way we practice.
“It’s a lot harder, but all the work has paid off. We’re a pretty close-knit group. We tell ourselves every day in the locker room that we’ve got to get better each day if we want to have our own plaque on that big wall out there, so everyone can see the 2016 state-championship team.”
There’s a plaque on an exterior wall of the Mules’ locker room honoring the 2006 Heights squad that won the Class 4A Division I state title under coach Don Byrd.
Reynolds is the Mules’ leading rusher with 436 yards and eight touchdowns on 67 carries (6.51 average) and also is a threat at the slotback position. Not bad for someone who played on the Heights “B” team when he was a freshman.
“The ‘A’ is the more talented,” Reynolds said. “Being on the ‘B’ team just made me work harder and more determined. It’s not about where you start. It’s where you finish.”
Reynolds, one of 51 seniors on the Heights roster, made the varsity as a sophomore and is in his third season as a starter.
“That’s a testament to how hard he worked that summer between his freshman and sophomore year,” Mules coach Mike Norment said. “Deryl will do whatever he needs to do to help our team. He’s just a great young man. He’s very unselfish, just like everybody else on this team.”
Reynolds, 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, splits time with senior Tucker Azar at running back. The two give Heights a solid tandem to fuel the ground game. Azar has rushed for 286 yards and four TDs on 48 carries (5.96 average).
“What’s good about both those guys is that they don’t really care about the stats,” Norment said. “They want to do what’s best for the team. We’ll have one of them going at running back, and they don’t care who scores. Even though we’re on the goal line, if it looks like the one in there is gassed, we’ll put the other one in, and the one that goes out will be happy when the other guys scores.
“We’ve been able to do that all season. It’s really a testament to Deryl and Tucker, and also a testament to the team. We’ve really stressed this season that we’ve got to be a great team to be successful here, and they’ve really bought into that. We’ve got to keep that up.”
Heights has advanced to the playoffs in three of its four seasons under Norment, who is 38-14 since succeeding Byrd in 2012. The Mules reached the regional finals in Norment’s second season, finishing 10-4. They were 6-4 last year.
“We just have to continue to get better,” Norment said. “If we do that, things will take care of themselves.”
Reynolds expressed confidence Heights will stay on task and lauded Norment for is ability to keep the team focused.
“He coaches us to our max level, so we can do what we can to be better,” Reynolds said.