IRAAN, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – 2A West Texas football is a tough class to be a part of, let alone division 2 with several big names including the Wink Wildcats and the McCamey Badgers, but for the Iraan-Sheffield Braves, it gives them a chance to prove themselves even more.

Returning junior quarterback, Cole Bowman is looking forward to the pressure the competitive district brings.

“I’m glad it’s not going to be handed out. You know, no one can say we got handed out anything. We’re really working for it. And it’ll show people how far we’ve come,” said Bowman.

The past few years for the Braves haven’t exactly been the easiest and they’ve had a rough time keeping up with the rest of the district.

“Iraan has a great history of football. It’s just kind of died down for a while. And when you can you like jump start it and it starts, it’s not as easy as it sounds. And just like when you jump somebody alive again, it starts off and, they want to win here in this community. People want to be good, the kids out here want to be good, and that’s important,” added second-year head coach, Berry Bowman.

Those few years where the program has died down, has brought a lot of disbelief from those on the outside looking in and for the Braves. And that doubt has been a heavy weight on the young athletes’ shoulders.

One thing that made a huge difference in the Braves’ play was the low numbers they’ve seem to have consistently, but this year is better than ever.

Junior linebacker, Ethan Barrera added, “Our spirits dropped down past couple of years. We’re losing, we’re not feeling it. But now that we have more players, more numbers, better coaches, we’re finally picking up the enthusiasm and beginning to be a better team.”

Coach Bowman emphasized the need for more players and the excitement he has knowing he has the guys to support him.

“That’s what it does is it gives you bodies and it gives guys a lot more rest during whereas last year, our poor tailback would go nonstop and the flip on defense play Iron Man football and then flip and flip. We still some guys will still have to do that this year, but you have less guys having to go all the time,” said Bowman.

A few seasons ago, Bowman said the Braves were struck down to only ten players after injuries and the lack of numbers. So now, for upperclassmen, seeing the increase this year, gives them some much needed hope.

“Having so much young numbers, I’m really proud of how much played this year, knowing that our past records. But they’re out here working, they’re working our butts off and they just want to be just like the state team in 2016,” junior running back, JD Solis, said.

Bowman came onto the scene last season, and while his first season ended with a record of 0-5 in district, his players believe in the progress he can show the program.

“We were kind of slower mentally and physically. New coaches coming in, you know, we had to adapt to their offense. And so second year, getting more used to it should be better this year,” added junior slot receiver Angelo Zapata.

And coach’s son, Cole, agreed, “We just follow the coach’s game plan. Game plan is still it. You know, they can have Richard Sherman out there and I still run whatever my coach tells me to run.”

Pushing past the doubters and focusing on the fundamentals is a huge key to the Braves’ success this season.

“It just picks us up even more, knowing that there’s people, doubting us. They just won’t get in our way like that. We hope to pass what they think we can do, and we hope to get over that brick wall that we’ve been stuck over,” said Solis. “Push through the pain, push through our limits and push way beyond what we can do as a team.”

“We have nothing to lose, basically. So we have more to prove to ourselves, show everybody what we’re about,” added Barrera.

For Coach, leading this team means more than just winning.

“I have two sons on the team, but really I have a bunch of sons, I have 32 sons on the team,” chuckled Bowman. “So it turns into being really you need all of them we don’t have there’s not one player that’s going to set us apart or make us great or make us terrible. I think we’re all going to have to contribute.”

The Braves look to make another run at the state championship like they once did in 2016, and it all starts with game one.

They’ll kick off their season on September 2nd with non-district play against the Center Point Pirates.