HARLINGEN — After winning back-to-back district championships in District 16-5A DI, the Mission Veterans Patriots football team is moving down a division to 16-5A DII after the UIL released its 2020-2022 reclassification and realignment Monday morning.

Overall, the Patriots have won three straight district championships dating back to their days in 31-5A in 2017.

If the Patriots hope to defend and capture a fourth straight district title, they’ll have to go through some old rivals to get there.

In the new-look District 16-5A DII, the Patriots are set to reignite rivalries against Sharyland High and Sharyland Pioneer, both city of Mission teams. They also have district battles with Edcouch-Elsa and Mercedes on deck.

“We’ve played with all these teams before. We’ve played with the Sharylands and Pioneers, we’ve played with the Mercedes and Edcouch-Elsas, the Valley View and Romas, PSJA Memorial and Southwest were in our district the last two years, so no new faces for us,” Mission Veterans head coach David Gilpin said. “A couple of new coaches, but pretty much everybody else is the same head coach we’ve faced, so we have an idea of what they’re going to do.

“It’s going to be a matter of getting on some film and starting to prepare for our season, but we’re excited about being in there. We think it’s a really tough district, we feel like we’re in one of the tougher districts in the Rio Grande Valley, but I think by the time our four teams come out of there in November, we’re going to be ready for some playoff football out of our district.”

Sharyland High head coach Ron Adame said to have Mission Veterans back on their schedule after a two-year absence is a positive for the city.

“It’s good to see for the city of Mission. The games between us, Mission Veterans and Pioneer, those always attract big crowds,” Adame said.

While those await Mission Veterans in District 16-5A DII, the Patriots are slated to open the 2020 season with “The Battle of Conway” against its biggest rival Mission High. In Week 2, the Patriots will clash against San Benito.

“I want to challenge our program. I don’t care about wins and losses in non-district. We need to challenge ourselves,” Gilpin said. “The entire non-district schedule is about mindset. Playing that Mission game is a rivalry game and it’s huge for our community. We get to play in an electric atmosphere, a playoff atmosphere like when we played in the Alamodome two years ago. That place was on fire, and that’s what we get every year when we play Mission. Then there’s certain Valley teams that I want to play, that I don’t need to go find an out-of-Valley school to play because they’re at that caliber. San Benito is one of them.”

bramos@themonitor.com