BY RAUL GARCIA
EDINBURG — Edinburg North’s Elias Moran is back for his eighth season as the boys soccer coach with a new cast of players who have been practicing since Dec. 1.
This year, the Cougars take the field with eight seniors and four returning starters.
Their key players returning are David Peña, a four-year letterman, and top scorer Roberto Ruiz, who was named the District 31-6A Utility Player of the Year in 2019.
“We’ve had some learning experiences in 2018,” Moran said. “And we were able to make the playoffs in 2019.”
The Cougars’ most successful campaign in program history came in 2017, when they went five rounds deep in the UIL state playoffs where they faced District 30-6A powerhouse La Joya Juarez-Lincoln, which bounced them out of the Elite Eight and went on to reach the Final Four in 2017.
“The guys have faced a little bit of everything and have embraced and accepted their upcoming challenges,” Moran said.
The Cougars’ first scrimmage of the season will be at 7 p.m. Thursday against McAllen Memorial in McAllen. They have five scrimmages scheduled before beginning district competition Jan. 3.
“We’re ready,” Moran said. “We don’t have a star player. We have a group of resilient players who never give up and continue to play the same way with a lot of heart, mental strength and who can compete with anybody.”
Donna North will be one of the Cougars’ toughest challengers in District 31-6A. It is the defending district champions and it buzzed-sawed its way past the competition, finishing its 2019 district campaign undefeated.
Other teams to look out for in District 31-6A are Edinburg Economedes and Weslaco East.
La Joya High head coach Alex Davila is coming back for his fifth year with the Coyotes.
“We have a good group coming together,” Davila said. “We have four returning starters and the rest are juniors coming back who were last year’s role players.”
The Coyotes will take on Brownsville Porter at 6 p.m. Friday at La Joya.
“We need these scrimmages and games to gel and play more competitive,” Davila said. “We are working on trying to play like years past.”
The Coyotes have successfully made the playoffs the last three years. In 2015, the Coyotes advanced to the area round of the playoffs.
The Coyotes’ top four seniors returning are center backfielders Kevin Herrera and Oscar Quintana, and center midfielders Juan Ramos and Victor Ybarra.
Other top teams to watch in their District 30-6A are La Joya Juarez-Lincoln, McAllen Memorial, McAllen Rowe and Mission High.
PSJA North head coach Abdel Reyes is returning several seniors and coming back with a strong cast of sophomores to lead the Raiders’ 2020 campaign.
“We’re looking good this year,” Reyes said.
The Raiders are coming off a 13-6-8 season in 2018-19. It’s Reyes’ second year at the helm.
Senior Christian Hernandez is the Raiders’ do-it-all utility player at the midfielder position, Reyes said.
And returning junior Emiliano Garza is the team’s top scorer returning at the forward position.
Over the last 10 years, Valley teams have won five state titles since 2009. Brownsville Porter won a second title and Brownsville Rivera won a 6A crown.
Sharyland High brought home a championship in Class 5A in 2012.
La Joya Juarez-Lincoln has established itself as a perennial regional powerhouse. Valley View has been in the state finals, while fellow 4A and district rival Progreso has made the trip to the UIL state tournament in Georgetown four times in the last five years.
Brownsville Lopez and Brownsville Porter pioneered the first championships for the RGV in 2004 and 2006. Hidalgo brought it home to Hidalgo County in 2009.