MISSION — When the PSJA High Bears battle the Mission High Eagles this week, it will be a meeting between two of the hottest and most similar teams throughout District 30-6A.
The Bears and Eagles both depend on high-powered passing offenses and they throw the ball more effectively than any of their other district competitors. PSJA High and Mission’s dangerous aerial attacks feature 30-6A’s two top passers and two top pass catchers.
The Bears’ offense is anchored by senior quarterback Justin Morales, whose 2,271 passing yards and 20 touchdowns lead the district, and senior wide receiver Miguel Flores, who has stood out amongst a crowded and talented group of wideouts with 867 yards and 11 touchdowns on 51 catches.
“He’s an athlete, so he’s elusive and he does a good job of buying time to give those receivers a chance to work. He’s a challenge,” Mission High head coach Koy Detmer said of PSJA’s Morales. “He’s going to be a handful. They’ve put up points and yards all year long, so it’s going to be a tough matchup for our defense.”
Morales has really provided PSJA High’s offense with the spark it needed. In his past three games, the first-year starter has thrown for 976 yards and 10 touchdown passes and put the rest of 30-6A on notice.
The key for his and the Bears’ recent success has been limiting turnovers and capitalizing on big play opportunities. Morales has proven that when PSJA High is able to hold on to the football, his passing is too crisp and his receivers too athletic for its passing attack to stumble.
“Watching him on film, he does a good job; he throws a good ball. You can tell he knows what he’s looking at it in the route concepts and things like that,” Detmer said. “He’s doing a good job of reading defenses and his receivers are doing a good job making adjustments and finding those open holes in the defense. He does a really good job of throwing a completeable ball where his guy has the best chance of catching it even when there’s tight coverage.”
The Eagles have a talented quarterback-receiver tandem in sophomore Jeremy Duran and senior Stevie Villarreal.
Duran and Villarreal have depended on each other greatly since Mission started to suffer from backfield injuries and the duo had to take charge in order to keep putting points on the scoreboard. The two have connected on 40 catches for seven touchdowns and 605 receiving yards, including a 35-yard passing touchdown last week in a win over McAllen Rowe.
The Eagles also collected more than 100 yards on the ground between the backfield trio of Andrew Maldonado, Rene Anzaldua and Damian Cortez. Duran credits his group of backs for providing balance to the offense and helping Mission dictate tempo with the lead.
“Our balance is good, it keeps defenses off guard and helps us excel,” Duran said. “We work on clock management. We’re real smart with it. Ball security is key and as long as we keep that clock rolling and we keep scoring, we’ll be all right.”
But it’s Duran that provides the Eagles’ offense with its ability to be so varied in its approach. In his last game, Duran had three touchdown passes to three different receivers: one on a deep crossing route, one on a bubble screen and another on a checkdown throw.
His coach credits his meticulous mental approach for enabling the offense to be so versatile.
“He allows us to do everything we do,” Detmer said. “Whether there’s motioning or shifting and doing all those things because it keeps it organized in his head what we need to look at and the adjustments the defenses are making to our movement. He’s really doing an outstanding job of that and processing the information within the play.”
“I don’t just throw to one receiver and it’s a spread offense, so I’ve got to spread the ball around to different people, make plays and give it to everybody,” Duran said.
But Duran and Morales could also be in store for long nights as this matchup will also feature the district’s two most dominant defenses.
The Bears are fresh off pitching a shutout against McHi in which they allowed negative rushing yards. They’ve exceled at pressuring opposing quarterbacks in the pocket and stuffing the run.
“They have a lot of experience and they’ve got some physical ability,” Detmer said. “Those linebackers are really good. No. 90, the defensive end (Manny Castillo), plays really well for them, but the whole group does. The secondary has gotten better and better as the year has gone on if you watch them on film, so it’s a quality defense.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles have relied more on their ability to consistently get stops defensively to hold opponents in check. They just posted their third straight second half shutout against a talented Rowe offense and will look to carry over some of that momentum.
“Obviously getting a shutout in either half in a game like that is a big deal when you hold the other team down like that,” Detmer said. “Our coaches are doing an excellent job of putting their heads together at halftime making adjustments. The players are doing a great job of receiving that information and going out and executing it.”
The Bears and Eagles will face off against each at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission.