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New coach working to turn Dekaney program around

April 7, 2019

The Dekaney Wildcats were still searching for their first win 11 games into the district season last year under then newly appointed head coach Bernard Nativi.

In year number two of being in charge of the Dekaney program, Nativi’s squad fairly surpassed all expectations.

The Wildcats were one win away from clinching a playoff spot. If things continue trending upwards, it won’t be long until they get to play past the regular season.

“They were excited that we were very close to the playoffs,” second-year head coach Nativi said. “The entire main focus was to make it to playoffs.”

Dekaney (9-6, 8-6) placed fifth in District 16-6A behind first-place Nimitz, Westfield, Aldine and Eisenhower. The year before, the Wildcats placed at the bottom of the standings.

“They were working extremely hard the entire year to get to that point,” Nativi said.

At the beginning of the season, the coaching staff saw that the squad was producing results with wins and effectively implementing everything that was being put into practice.

“They were successful, so they even more and more excited as the season went on,” Nativi said.

Rising above

In the regular season finale, a win against Eisenhower would have allowed the Wildcats to clinch a postseason spot.

Dekaney ended up losing 3-0, going from a possible third seed to outside looking in.

“Difficult game that I think we could have prepared for more mentally,” Nativi said. “Physically we were there, we were prepared, but sometimes it’s a little more than just physical.”

Natiti always lets his players know that it’s very important to know how to lose and what to do after you lose a game.

“It’s a part of life, they tasted the loss and they did not like it at all,” Nativi said. “They said that it was the worst feeling they’ve had as a team.”

The loss bothered the Wildcats and as a result the team said they wanted to start practicing hard the next day.

“I love it, I understand that they love the sport,” Nativi said. “They see it more than just a sport, they see it as a lifestyle. “They were very prepared; I’m excited about next season with these boys.”

One thing that made the athletes understand how good they really were was the fact that they were able to beat every single school in the district.

“We beat the first, second, third and fourth place team, they beat every single team,” Nativi said. “They didn’t see that at first because they just saw the loss hurting but one they heard that, that they beat every team, they were excited and looking for first place next year.”

Leaders of the pack

With only four seniors graduating from the varsity roster, most of Nativi’s players will return.

“Definitely impacted the team (seniors), they were motivated, team leaders, fighters, they’re definitely going to be missed,” Nativi said.

They featured captain Cheikna Gueye, Kenneth Rodriguez, Eliseo Sanchez and Fernando Rosales.

“Gueye was our center midfielder, he is a unique player, never gives up on any plays,” Nativi said. “Great great player that we are definitely going to miss. Sanchez has great defense, he’s a center back, very strong, has been playing all four years, is also going to be missed. Just like Rosales another defensive player, influential also. Rodriguez is a very charismatic player that we’re going to miss also.”

Nativi can honestly say that all his returning players are going to be huge come next year. Nevertheless, the one player that was extremely influential this year and eager for next year is goalie David Espinosa.

“He was able to stop some goals and some penalty kicks that every team that played against him that went to penalty kicks after a tie, they feared him,” Nativi said. “I know they did because he was a brick wall, he wasn’t letting anything through. He’s very excited next year to play.”

Jaime Vega is key forward who tore his ACL, who’s expected to be back at 100 percent by next fall.

“He was a very prolific player also that we want to wish luck for next season,” Nativi said.

Two other influential and versatile players to look out for next season are Arturo Pahua and captain Victor Hernandez.

Unfinished business

Someone else that Nativi’s eager to see coming up as a sophomore next year is forward Enock Gota, who’s actually a kicker on the football team.

“As a freshman, he’s shown his leadership skills and is nonstop resilient as a player,” Nativi said. “I’m excited to see him grow also.”

There’s a few things that the coaching staff is going to mainly focus on going into next season that can make a big difference.

With the team concentrating on the speed and strength, Nativi believes the pair is going to help complete the team.

“Other than chemistry, you always want to work on chemistry, but more speed and strength, and those two things can definitely be accomplished in offseason,” Nativi said.

Heading into year number three since taking over the Dekaney program, Nativi can’t wait to start offseason and continue building the program.

“That’s all you can ask for as a coach is a gem player that wants to play and they never wants to give up,” Nativi said. “They’ve completely proven that, they’re here to never give up. It’s brought us back from 2-0 loss and coming out with a win. It’s just been amazing, you see the team growing together and you see the program growing.”

alvaro.montano@chron.com