WESLACO — When the Weslaco East Wildcats (9-3, 6-0) collide with the Austin Westlake Chaparrals (11-1, 7-1), it’ll be a duel between two of the most dominant defenses across the state.

Weslaco East is coming off a dominant area round win in which the defense shut down a high-powered McAllen Rowe offense and the team walked away with a three-touchdown victory. The Wildcats limited the Warriors to a single offensive touchdown on the night and held them to 86 yards on the ground to help get off the field.

“I thought we played a solid game,” Weslaco East head coach Mike Burget said. “Any time you can beat a solid team like Nikki Rowe the way we did by three touchdowns, that was really good.”

“We just outhit them and we played our technique pretty much,” linebacker Gio Barrera said. 

Barrera has been part of a tough-nosed defense that’s been the Wildcats’ calling card all season. He’s one of two players with more than 100 tackles on the season (107), leads the team with seven tackles for loss and has also tallied three interceptions and a fumble recovery too.

He’s joined in an uber talented front seven by linebackers Jordan Velasquez and Irwin Morwin, who have recorded 111 and 97 tackles on the year, respectively. The trio collectively has accounted for five sacks and are a big reason while Weslaco East’s defense is regarded as one of the Valley’s best.

“I’ve got the best defensive staff in South Texas, I really believe that. I have a bunch of guys who have been ex-head coaches and coordinators. Coach Guzman leads them; this is midfield right here and I’m not allowed to cross onto the defensive side during practice,” Burget said. “He does a great job and he’s a leader. He’s always been a leader. We hired him 13 years ago to be the DC, he’s done it year in and year out and he leads by example. I feel like he’s ready to be a head coach anywhere that he wants to be.”

Offensively, the Wildcats were able to exploit the Warriors on the ground and dominate the time of possession in round two. Senior quarterback Ramsey Vasquez led a prolific ground attack that racked up 477 yards on 53 carries.

Vasquez personally finished with 237 yards on the ground and three rushing scores on 22 carries and credited his offensive line for creating running lanes and opportunities.

“I feel like we are playing good football, but we still have a lot in store. Everything is just coming together and we’re rolling,” Vasquez said. “I felt like our linemen we’re giving us the holes we needed to see. Everything was just going in order, it all fell into place and we scored.”

Vasquez and the Wildcats’ deep backfield will need to keep that momentum rolling against the Chaps, who boast one of the toughest defenses in Texas.

Westlake’s defense has only allowed an average 9.4 points per week and held its opponents to eight points or fewer in 10 of 12 contests. The Chaps are led defensively by power edge rushers Bobby Duncum and Austin McClendon, who combined for 17 tackles for loss and 13 of the team’s 34 sacks on the season.

The Wildcats will also have to look out for Westlake defensive back Leo Lowin, who leads the team in tackles (73), tackles for loss (13) and interceptions (three). 

“They don’t give up a lot of points and they score a lot. They have a bunch of D1 kids, we can see it on film. We know what we’re going up against, but we’re going to hit them,” Burget said. “We know what they bring. Our kids see it and they know.Our kids have had a great week of practice and they’re not going to fear anyone.”

Offensively, Westlake has a well-balanced attack captained by quarterback Kirkland Michaux and running back Zane Meyers.

Michaux has been an elite passer this season, completing 69.3% of his passes for 1,858 yards and 27 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Meyers, meanwhile, leads the team with 680 yards on the ground, 11 rushing touchdowns and a 9.3 yards per carry average for the year.

The Wildcats believe to counteract the Chaps’ offensive versatility, they’ll have to give their opponents a taste of their defensive intensity.

“I think it’ll be a close game. We’re strong at every position,” Barrera said. “We just all do our jobs and outhit people. It’s our physicality that sets us apart.”

Weslaco East will enter with momentum on its side after beating four consecutive playoff teams and winning eight games in a row. Now Burget and the Wildcats just need to continue playing their brand of football.

“I know we’re going to be big-time underdogs and Westlake is picked to win a state title, but we feel like we’re going to go up there and play East football. We’re going to get after it and you never know any given day,” he said. “We’ve got kids that aren’t scared; we’ve played Cedar Park, Cibolo Steele, Manor, Vela and Harlingen. … Win or lose, we want to make sure that we hit someone.”