Vela HC faces former team in regional semifinals


EDINBURG — When the Edinburg Vela SaberCats take the field Friday afternoon in Laredo, head coach John Campbell will be standing on the opposite sideline of a program he helped build for seven years.

Campbell, in his third year at the Edinburg Vela helm, was San Antonio Brandeis’ first head coach when the school opened in 2008 until 2015. Now, the SaberCats and Broncos will square off in a Region IV-6A semifinal.


The SaberCats (9-3, 4-2) made their way into the third round of the playoffs for the third straight year by knocking off Harlingen High 42-35 in bi-district action and Eagle Pass 45-21 just last week in the area round in Laredo.

While the SaberCats’ two previous trips to the playoffs have come to an end at the hands of Austin Westlake, they must now get through a San Antonio-area team in order to advance to the postseason’s fourth round.

Last year against Westlake, Edinburg Vela fell 28-0 with quarterback AJ Sotelo hampered by injury.

Now, Sotelo is healthy and ready to lead the SaberCats.

On the season, the junior quarterback has thrown for 2,922 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions with a 62.9 completion percentage.

Giving him support in the backfield is PJ Rivera, a sophomore running back who has emerged as a key piece on the SaberCats offense with 1,027 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns in 11 games playing behind the powerful Vela offensive line.

Sotelo, Rivera and company will have their work cut out for them against a 12-0 Broncos team.

Spearheading Brandeis’ offensive attack is junior dual-threat quarterback Jordan Battles. In the Broncos’ two 2019 playoff games, Battles has 341 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, with another 233 yards through the air. The Broncos beat San Antonio Johnson 42-28 in the first-round and Clemens 35-21 a week ago.



While head coach of the Broncos, Campbell compiled a 69-19 record.

Campbell led the Broncos to the state quarterfinals on three separate occasions in 2009, 2012 and 2014. His coaching helped establish the Brandeis football program quickly, as the 2009 appearance in the quarterfinals happened in the team’s second year of play.

While at Vela, Campbell has put together a 33-5 record in just three years. Friday presents an opportunity to add to that mark.

Both programs have made tremendous strides under Campbell. Now, his Edinburg Vela squad is set to face his old team in Brandeis with the winner moving on, while the loser’s season comes to a bitter end.

Kickoff between the SaberCats and Broncos is slated for 2 p.m. Friday at the Student Activity Complex in Laredo.

The winner of Edinburg Vela and San Antonio Brandeis will face the winner of Weslaco High and Austin Westlake in the Class 6A Division II Region IV final.