Class 6A teams across the Rio Grande Valley jump back into competition in earnest on the gridiron this weekend headlined by a matchup between the Edinburg High Bobcats and Mission High Eagles.
The Bobcats and Eagles will be two of the early-season favorites to clinch postseason berths out of District 31-6A and both teams will be looking to battle their way back to the bi-district round of the playoffs.
Edinburg High missed the postseason for the first time in years after a 4-6 campaign in 2019. The Bobcats will begin their march back to the postseason hoping to swipe a road win in their district opener behind the powerful, explosive senior duo of Shandon Woodard and Emmanuel Duron.
Duron should give the Eagles’ offensive line issues as one of the RGV’s most explosive defensive linemen and a relentless pass rusher, while Woodard has a very legitimate chance to end the 2020 season as 31-6A’s top rusher.
On the opposite sideline, Mission High enters this game riding the strength of one of the Valley’s most dominant defenses led by defensive tackle Dante Lopez, linebacker Justin Soto and safety Luis Briseno that gave Laredo United fits in its last contest, an overtime bi-district playoff loss last season.
The Eagles will have some new names featured offensively, but they’ll be led by one of the Valley’s top crunch-time playmakers in junior quarterback Jeremy Duran. Edinburg High and Mission High will duke it out at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry’s Hall of Fame Memorial Stadium in Mission.
GONZALEZ, RAIDERS LOOK TO REBOUND AGAINST JAGS
PSJA North became the first Class 6A team in the Rio Grande Valley to officially make its competitive return to the gridiron last week, falling on the road 33-13 to Mercedes in The Monitor’s Game of the Week as the RGV’s only 6A team in action.
The Raiders (0-1) will be looking to rebound and pick up their first win when they host the Edinburg Economedes Jags at 7 tonight at PSJA Stadium in Pharr.
Raiders junior running back Isaac Gonzalez, a 2019 All-Valley selection, put the team’s offense on his back for the better part of three quarters in that contest, running for more than 100 yards and a touchdown.
But expect PSJA North’s passing game to take a big step forward in this one. Junior Zach Gonzalez and freshman Sergio Aparicio split time behind center for the Raiders against Mercedes, but Aparicio turned some heads with his play in the fourth quarter, highlighted by an 83-yard touchdown pass to junior Christian Ramirez.
Expect Ramirez and senior linebacker Micah Lopez to play a big part in trying to slow down an experienced Economedes offense, while the Jaguars will look for a handful of underclassmen to step up with contributions defensively.
ESPINO, BEARS LAUNCH DISTRICT TITLE DEFENSE AGAINST COUGARS
The PSJA High Bears have been one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most successful teams on the gridiron in recent years, winning back-to-back district championships after splitting the District 30-6A title three ways between Mission and McAllen Memorial last season.
The Bears will have a lot to replace this year, as they return just three starters on each side of the ball.
Offensively, PSJA High will be trying to pinpoint its next starters at running back and quarterback in this season-opening district matchup against the Cougars, but look for athletic junior wideout Viggo Lopez — the team’s only returning receiver — to bust out in a big way as PSJA’s primary target in a pass-happy scheme.
On the other side, Edinburg North will be looking to build off momentum it captured after making it to the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs last season.
The Cougars return one of the Valley’s stoutest defensive units with nine starters back from last season’s group, which was a big reason for their regular-season success in 2019.
The question mark for Edinburg North in this one will be offensively, as the Cougars struggled in a scoreless scrimmage performance against Brownsville Pace last Friday. They’ll face an uphill battle trying to move the ball against defensive lineman Aaron Noriega and a stacked secondary captained by senior ball-hawking safety Isaac Espino.
Kick-off between the Bears and Cougars is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.
CUEVAS, CHIEFS SEEKING EXPLOSIVE START
First-year head coach Juan Cuevas and the Donna North Chiefs will be looking to snap the Valley’s longest active losing streak and win their first football game since 2017 when they host the Harlingen South Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Benny LaPrade Stadium in Donna.
The Chiefs are anchored upfront by a pair of fearsome defensive linemen in seniors Tony Gandaria and Valentin Sanchez. Gandaria is an explosive pass rusher who helps Donna North seal off the outside, while Sanchez is a disruptive defensive tackle along the interior who frequently blows up plays between the tackles.
They’ll have their hands full trying to slow down the Hawks’ high-octane, motion-heavy offense, but the Chiefs have an offense that can keep pace with Harlingen South if need be.
Donna North should have some of District 32-6A’s top offensive line depth and a group of lanky, athletic wide receivers that includes senior playmaker Rigo Rodriguez and Andrew Mendoza, a sophomore who plays two ways that the coaching staff expects to produce.
The key to unlocking the Chiefs’ offense, though, will rest in the hands of junior quarterback Robert Gomez and his brother, senior wideout Aiden Gomez, who possess some of the best chemistry and timing of any quarterback-wideout combo in the RGV.