When Mike Pry was named the head football coach at Coronado earlier this season, his immediate goal was to create an atmosphere of team camaraderie and excellence.
After nearly six months on the job, it's beginning to take shape for Pry and the Thunderbirds, who compete in District 1-6A.
On Friday and Saturday, the Thunderbirds will be one of four teams from El Paso in the state 7-on-7 football tournament at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex in College Station. They will be joined by Eastlake, Eastwood and Franklin.
While qualifying for the state 7-on-7 tournament doesn't necessarily translate to success in the fall, for a team looking to shake off three straight losing seasons and earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2018, any success is a positive trend.
"We're certainly making progress," junior wide receiver Blake Randag said. "We definitely see the improvement every day, we saw it in offseason workouts, we saw it in spring practice. There is a different attitude with Coronado football."
Pry graduated from Coronado in 1995 and knows the history of the program, which has qualified for the playoffs 34 times in school history and is 26 wins away from 400.
"Our kids are working every day and I really love the effort the kids have," Pry said. "They have made a commitment to be the best they can be and they have such a great attitude. I like the direction we are headed in."
Coronado will get a chance to showcase some of their skill position players at the state tournament. In addition to Randag, quarterback Owen Levesque and Cade Little, who will be on the field in a variety of roles and Pry says may touch the ball often during a game, as both will give the Thunderbirds a chance to be competitive not just this weekend but come the 10-game regular season.
"Coach Pry and the staff really came in with lots of focus and lots of energy," Levesque said. "We put last year behind, we have to. There is no looking back and we're moving forward with the belief that we will be better."
Added Little: "It's an exciting time to be at Coronado with coach Pry. Our team has lots of different people who are talented and who are playing with more confidence. It's one step at a time and making the state 7-on-7 tournament is important for us. It gives some more time to continue to develop, it gives us a chance to compete at a high level against top teams and we're taking this trip seriously. It's a chance for us to keep that work we've been doing, build confidence and build chemistry."
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Coronado football seeks continued improvement at state 7-on-7 tourney