Clash of the titans: SaberCats, Panthers to collide in The Monitor’s Game of the Week

In this photo the Edinburg Vela SaberCats quarterback Anthony Sotelo is seen throwing the football to a receiver during practicing on Monday, October 7 at Vela High School. The SaberCats have not lost a district match since 2016. Last year's single district loss for the Panthers was to the SaberCats.Credit: Photo by Raul Garcia | The Monitor

By RAUL GARCIA

STAFF WRITER

EDINBURG — Edinburg Vela head coach John Campbell chirped his whistle at practice, and signaled for his team to move on to their next offensive play.

The SaberCats moved into formation and heeded his call.

The quarterbacks and receivers were going over their pass plays. The defense was trying to stop their attack.

It was Monday afternoon and the SaberCats (5-1, 2-0), with only three days to prepare before facing the Weslaco High Panthers in The Monitor’s Game of the Week, were hard at work.

Edinburg Vela will host its District 31-6A rival at 7 p.m. Thursday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg in a matchup that could have district title implications.

“We are excited for the opportunity to kind of be the focus on Thursday night,” Campbell said. “At the same time, it’s a district game against a very quality opponent.”

The last time these two teams met, Edinburg Vela won 17-7. It was the only game in their 2018 campaign in which it was held to fewer than 20 points. The SaberCats have not lost a district game since their 2014 campaign in a 27-24 defeat at the hands of Sharyland High.

Campbell said the SaberCats remain focused and are not allowing any distractions to seep in.

Weslaco (4-1, 1-0) is coming off a bye after defeating Edinburg Economedes 41-7 in Week 5. As such, the Panthers have had extended time to prepare for the SaberCats, who defeated Edinburg Economedes 45-0 in Week 6.

The game will showcase two of the best quarterbacks in District 31-6A, and it could turn into a high-scoring shootout.

Both teams have aggressive offenses and can score quickly with their pass attack.

Edinburg Vela quarterback Anthony Sotelo has thrown for 15 touchdowns, while passing for 1,511 yards against four interceptions.

Weslaco quarterback Jacob Cavazos has thrown 11 touchdown passes, while throwing for 838 yards against two interceptions.

“Every time you play a big ball game its fun for the kids,” Campbell said.

Both teams have a ground-and-pound offense, but the can also air it out for a long touchdown pass.

Sotelo’s longest scoring heave of the year went for 66 yards to wide receiver Justin Vega.

Cavazos’ longest is a 99-yard touchdown reception to Rodney Garza.

“They do what they do, we do what we do,” Campbell said about both teams’ style of play. “I like to think that both offenses have the ability to be pretty balanced.”

Campbell believes what makes Weslaco’s offense successful is its ability to run and throw the ball.

The Panthers are coming into a game in which it tallied 1,132 rushing yards and six touchdowns between three primary running backs.

“They have a really good athletic team over there,” Weslaco head coach Roy Stroman said. “Offensively, they have a great quarterback in Sotelo.”

Stroman said they know going into the game that Vela has an imposing offensive line.

Edinburg Vela offensive lineman Ronny Garza, who has been out with an injury since early in the season, is scheduled to return to the lineup, Campbell said.

“Our defense has their work cut out for them this week,” Stroman said. “We just hope we can stop them and give the ball back to our offense.”

rgarcia@themonitor.com