SAN ANTONIO – It was legendary coach Vince Lombardi, the patron saint of the NFL, who famously said that “winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all-the-time thing.”
The players on this season’s O’Connor football team were born decades after Lombardi coached his last game, but they know something about the consistency he spoke about.
The Panthers, who reached the state quarterfinals last year, have won 18 of their last 19 games and 22 straight in regular-season play since losing to Steele on Sept. 10, 2016.
“For us, it’s going out there and doing the exact same thing and as an older guy, bringing up the young guys, and showing them exactly how the system is run here,” blue-chip offensive guard Brannon Brown said Thursday.
O’Connor, 5-0 overall and 4-0 in District 28-6A play, squares off against Brandeis (4-1, 3-1) in a key league game at 7:30 Friday night at Farris Stadium. The meeting will be the first between the two Northside ISD teams since 2015, when the Broncos took a 45-39 victory.
“This is a game that our kids have had marked on their calendars since offseason,” Panthers coach David Malesky said. “It’s really neat for our communities. It’s great for high school football. It’s great for high school football in San Antonio. It’s going to be a really special evening.”
Brown, a senior who has committed to TCU, was a freshman starter the last time O’Connor and Brandeis clashed. Malesky and his staff haven’t had to say much, if anything at all, to get their players pumped for Friday night’s game.
“We’ve been waiting for this one for a while,” Brown said. “Three years now since the last time we played them. There’s no need for any coach to come out here and tell us we need to get hyper excited or go full speed during drills because we’re all ready for this game. We’ve all come out here preparing our best, and I think we’re going to give them our best. “
Brandeis leads the series against O’Connor 5-3. Both teams had open dates last week, but they had different outcomes in their last game before the break. The Panthers rolled to a 42-0 win over Taft on Thursday, Sept. 27, but Brennan beat the Broncos 27-20 the next night.
Brandeis’ loss did nothing to change the high opinion Malesky and his players have had of the Broncos since the preseason.
Asked what’s jumped out at him this week as he’s watched video of Brandeis, Malesky quickly replied. “They score 55 points (actually 44.4) a game. That’s hard to do against air, and they’re doing it against really good people. They don’t have just one weapon.
“They’ve got several kids – running back, tight end, quarterback – they’ve got a receiver that can go keep, (and) I think their offensive line is one of the best offensive lines we’ve played this year. I think they do a really good job up front. They’re coached well. They don’t make many mistakes. That’s why they’ve scored the number of points that they have.”
Brandeis opened the season with a 35-17 victory against defending district champion Johnson. The Broncos jumped into district play the next week, routing Stevens 59-14. They scored more than 50 points in their next two games, blowing out Marshall 56-20 and Clark 52-13.
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Battles has been a dual threat for the Broncos, completing 42 of 72 passes, with three interceptions, for 709 yards and eight touchdowns, and rushing for 590 yards and five TDs. Senior tight end Oscar Cardenas is the team’s leading receiver with 15 catches for 233 yards and three TDs.
“They’re really talented,” said O’Connor senior linebacker Gabe Diaz, who started all 14 of the Panthers’ games last season. “We definitely have a big test, but we’re definitely ready. We’re excited.”
Calling Battles “a real talented guy,” Diaz has no illusions about what the O’Connor offense will be up against.
“We’ve got to respect them,” Diaz said. “Obviously, we can’t come in here thinking we’re going to just blow them out.”
The Brandeis defense is led by cornerback Frank Wilson IV (35 tackles), lineman Alex Trevino (four sacks) and cornerback Austin Garcia (three interceptions). All are juniors. Wilson is the son of UTSA head coach Frank Wilson.
“Defensively, these guys present a lot of problems,” Malesky said. “They do a great job team-wise. They’ve got some kids that can run to the football. They’re physical.”
Brannon is joined on the offensive line by another blue-chipper, junior Logan Parr, who is being recruited heavily by colleges from throughout the country. Junior Zion Taylor (74-593, 5 TDs) and senior Jordan Maye are the Panthers’ top running backs, and senior Chase Locke (15-241, 4 TDs) the leading receiver.
The O’Connor defense is anchored by junior safety Jack Jennings (40 tackles), senior linebacker Connor Callihan, junior lineman Pryson Greer, junior back Elijah Ornelas, senior linebacker Johnathon Renteria, senior back Grant Rustan and senior lineman Charles Trammell III.