MISSION — After making noise as a sophomore on the varsity level a year ago, people inside the La Joya Palmview football program expected good things to come from running back Carlos Peña.
Through five weeks of the 2019 high school football season, Peña, now a junior, has been more than good — he’s been the best in Class 5A.
Peña’s is the state’s leading rusher in 5A with 972 yards and an average of 194.4 per game, according to statistics compiled by MaxPreps.com and La Joya Palmview. The Lobos are 3-1 in District 16-5A DI play.
“I didn’t expect doing all this, but I expected something similar,” Peña said with a slight smile. “It feels great. We’re doing great this season and we just want to keep it up. The (offensive) line is doing great blocking.”
Right guard Alejandro Mendiola and the players up front said they feel proud to see Peña’s name atop the 5A rushing leaders because that means they’re excelling at the line of scrimmage.
“It means that I’m doing my job,” Mendiola said.
Palmview’s ground game is well-known in the 10-team District 16-5A DI. The Lobos ran their way into the postseason last year led by then-senior Mario Chapa and his 1,345 yards and 16 touchdowns.
With Chapa gone, Peña was set to be the next man up in La Joya Palmview’s Wing-T offense, and he’s running with his opportunities. He set a personal goal at the start of the 2019 campaign of running for 1,800 yards. He’s already more than halfway there at the midway point of the 10-game regular season.
Should the junior running back keep it up and lead his Lobos into the postseason for the second straight year, he could potentially cross the 2,000-yard mark.
Peña exploded in Week 2 in Palmview’s district opener as he finished with 321 yards on the ground with three touchdown runs of 62, 80 and 92 yards.
“They’re (the offensive line) making the holes for me. I find it and I hit it and make those plays happen,” he said. “When I break through, I just think I’m gone.”
Fellow running back Adrian Vasquez has also contributed 229 rushing yards and six touchdowns as Palmview’s offense is ranked No. 4 in 16-5A DI with an average of 347.8 yards per game. The Lobos’ defense comes in at No. 2 in the district with just 276 yards surrendered each time out.
Mendiola said defenses tend to fold as the game goes on due to Palmview’s overwhelming offensive line and an in-your-face, run- it-down-your-throat style of play.
“We’re just coming out aggressive every play. We’re just out there to ground and pound all night,” he said. “Defenses get tired, they get hurt — they’re not used to a ground game like we got.”
But Peña doesn’t just go to work on the offensive side carrying the load for the Lobos. He also serves as the team’s field goal kicker and leads District 16-5A DI in scoring with 60 points by way of 12 extra points, seven touchdowns, two field goals and two two-point conversions in five games.
And before he takes the field tonight, Friday or Saturday nights, Peña can be found getting into his zone with a little country music.
“I’m on my own. I usually listen to music and try to stay focused. I listen to everything, but I’m probably listening to Luke Bryan,” he admitted.
Peña and the Lobos will try to get into their zone and hit the ground running once again tonight as they are slated for a Week 6 matchup with the Brownsville Pace Vikings, one of two unbeaten teams in 16-5A DI.
Pace brings a balanced offensive attack led by junior quarterback Jose Banda, and the third-ranked defense in 16-5A DI, allowing 281.4 a game. The last time these two faced off, the Vikings topped the Lobos 35-14 in Brownsville. This time the game’s in La Joya, and Palmview is looking to extend its three-game winning streak to four tonight.
“We just want to keep the streak alive and we’ve been working hard for it every day,” Peña said.
La Joya Palmview (3-2, 3-1) faces Brownsville Pace (4-1, 4-0) at 7 tonight at La Joya ISD Pack Stadium in La Joya.