BY RAUL GARCIA
WESLACO — Weslaco East head coach Mike Burget watched his plan unfold as the helmets and pads clattered during the third quarter of his team’s regular-season finale, a District 31-6A championship clash against Edinburg Vela.
Burget had unleashed his patented Wildcat (9-4, 6-0) running game made up of multiple formations, orchestrating a 75-yard scoring drive on 17 plays. The possession ate up all but 58 seconds of the third quarter after the SaberCats kicked off to start the second half with a 21-13 lead on a cold November night.
The Wildcats were riding a 5-0 district record, yet they had not been in the conversation all year for being the top team in the district. But there they were battling on the gridiron for the 31-6A championship in their house at Bobby Lackey Stadium where they went on to win 35-28 in overtime to claim the district crown.
After leading the Wildcats to three straight shutouts on the season, an undefeated district record in 31-6A, running past four playoff teams beginning with Weslaco High, Edinburg Vela, Harlingen South and McAllen Rowe before capping their season off three rounds deep in the UIL Texas playoffs where they were defeated 45-14 by the eventual 6A state champion Austin Westlake, it all added up to Burget being selected as The Monitor’s All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
“I’m proud to say we’ve been to the third round six out of the last 10 years, but this award represents the whole district,” Burget said about District 31-6A football. “There is not a district in Texas that took three teams to the third round of the playoffs.”
Fellow District 31-6A opponent Edinburg Vela was defeated by San Antonio Brandeis 21-14 in round three, while Weslaco High was defeated by Lake Travis 52-17.
It was Burget’s successful formula of adding the quarterback sneak into the Weslaco East running game, which allowed the offense to chew up the clock, and a limited passing attack that led to Wildcats’ success.
And it worked and proved to be the right recipe during the moment of truth when the game was on the line. On their way to tying the game, quarterback Ramsey Vasquez faked a sweep right, jumped in the air and passed the ball across his chest to the left corner of the end zone where receiver Jordan Velasquez was left all alone for the pass that tied the game at 28 and capped off their epic 17-play scoring drive against the SaberCats in the district championship. ““They wanted to win district,” Burget said. “I told the kids in the meeting room early in the season I really believed we could get it going after going on a three-game losing streak. We started to roll, we kept the ball in our hands, we had three shutouts and it just worked out for us.”
Burget said it clearly before the start of the season, if the Wildcats could beat the Manor Mustangs in their Week 1 afternoon contest under the hot Texas sun, they could hang with the best of them. And it proved to be the catalyst of the season as they defeated Manor 32-29, a team that went five rounds deep into the 5A Texas State playoffs.
When he thinks back on the Wildcats’ 2019 campaign, he enjoys recalling the 46-yard game-winning field goal that lifted the Wildcats to a 17-14 victory over the Weslaco High Panthers on Nov. 1 and the interception by defensive back Jon Animas during the final 12 seconds of the SaberCats last drive to force overtime on Nov. 8.
The Wildcats were the dark horse of District 31-6A, it defined the team and it challenged the team and they stepped up to the test.
At the start of the season, nobody envisioned the Wildcats would be undefeated in district, and nobody picked them to win the big games. But it fired up the team and challenged them more.
“It (the district championship trophy) felt good in my hands, and for those emotions to come out after nobody picked us to win the district felt great,” Burget said about hoisting the district title over his head with all his team gathered around him celebrating.