This week marks the kickoff for the majority of Rio Grande Valley football teams and there’s no shortage of fireworks.
The marquee matchup in the RGV this week will take place at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium tonight as Mission Veterans hosts Edinburg Vela in The Monitor’s Game of the week, featuring two of the Valley’s most tradition-rich programs.
The idea started as a back-and-forth on Twitter and has turned into must-see action to start the year.
The Mission Veterans Patriots enter this matchup as a three-time defending district champion, while Edinburg Vela’s is coming off a year in which the SaberCats advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the third straight season.
Football fans will also get an early glimpse at two of the RGV’s brightest stars and three-year starters in Mission Veterans’ AJ Gonzaque and Vela’s AJ Sotelo.
Gonzaque is an all-state receiver who compiled more than 2,000 all-purpose yards last season as he split time at WR and QB. He also accounted for 35 passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns.
Leading the SaberCats offense is Sotelo, a quarterback who can slice and dice defenses with pinpoint precision. As a junior, Sotelo threw for 3,057 yards and 36 touchdowns in 13 games.
Kickoff between the Patriots and SaberCats is slated for 7 p.m.
McALLEN MEMORIAL AT SHARYLAND PIONEER
The Diamondbacks roll into this one after a dominant 49-28 season-opening victory over McAllen Rowe. Senior quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger, who was named The Monitor’s Player of the Week after more than 500 total yards, four passing and two rushing touchdowns against the Warriors, will look to keep the Valley’s most prolific offense humming against one of the Rio Grande Valley’s perennial contenders. Senior linebacker Christian Sanchez, senior defensive back Omar Salazar and junior defensive tackle Marcos De Ochoa will anchor the McAllen Memorial defense tasked with slowing down Marburger and Pioneer. Senior running backs Michael Lewis and Andrew Salinas will be looking to take the torch as the Mustangs’ next workhorse backs in the team’s first game without all-time Valley rushing leaders Campbell and Trevor Speights in the backfield since 2011.
MERCEDES AT McALLEN HIGH
The Tigers are coming off an impressive 33-13 win over PSJA North in The Monitor’s Game of the Week in what was the season opener for both squads. Senior all-state linebacker Brandon Adame will lead a ferocious Mercedes defense against a pair of the Valley’s best defensive ends in McHi senior Cirr Arredondo and junior Juan Corpus. The Tigers and Bulldogs had two of South Texas’ stingiest defenses last year in terms of points and yards allowed, but the teams’ offenses might steal the show in this one. Mercedes senior wideout Josiah Cantu flashed big-time playmaking ability against the Raiders, while Tigers sophomore back Tyrell Treviño burst onto the RGV football scene in his first varsity start. They’ll have their hands full trying to keep up with Bulldogs junior quarterback Hunter Curl and junior receiver Quinllion Canada, one of the Valley’s top quarterback-receiver tandems, in their return to the gridiron in McAllen.
DONNA HIGH AT BROWNSVILLE PORTER
First-year Donna High head coach Mike Gonzales leads the Redskins into a new era as they will travel to Brownsville to make their debut against the Porter Cowboys at 7 tonight at Sams Memorial Stadium. Porter has QB Kevin Garcia back to lead their offense, while Donna searches for new faces to step up in a new-look program. This matchup of District 16-5A DI foes will give the winner an early lead in league play.
EDCOUCH-ELSA AT RIO GRANDE CITY
Rio Grande City opened its season one week ago but lost 31-20 to Zapata. The Rattlers have a shot at redemption this week as they’ll host the Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday in RGC. Rattlers’ defensive back and running back Marc Perez showed why he’s dangerous anytime he’s on the field as he broke loose for touchdowns of 99 and 70 yards. He also came away with one interception against Zapata’s pass-happy offense. But now they’ll face a team that challenges defenses to stop the run in the Yellow Jackets. Leading “La Maquina Amarilla” is running back Shawn Alvarado, who ran for 13 touchdowns and over 900 yards in 2019. This matchup between two playoff teams from a season ago sets up to be a fun one.
McALLEN ROWE AT SHARYLAND HIGH
The Warriors will be making their second trip to Richard Thompson Stadium in as many weeks as McAllen Rowe will face Sharyland High in a non-district matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Rowe will attempt to put last week’s loss against Pioneer behind them as it faces a Rattlers squad making their 2020 debut. Bright spots for the Warriors last week included a chain-moving ground game led by Nicolas Meehan and Lorenzo Lopez, and some big-time grabs by Jorge Diaz and Gus Cruz. Sharyland High quarterback Benji Valdivia is back in the saddle for the Rattlers and will pace their offense this season with solid play behind center. Defensively, Sharyland’s front-seven looks formidable led by outside linebacker Javier Treviño.
BROWNSVILLE VETERANS AT PSJA SOUTHWEST
A new season means the Southwest Javelinas have an opportunity to replicate the success they saw at the beginning of the 2019 season after racing out to a 3-0 record. The Javelinas will face a tough test in their season opener against a Brownsville Veterans team that finished 7-3 a season ago. But with slot back Cesar Bocanegra and linebacker Luis Banda returning for the Javelinas, Southwest has potential to create big plays on both sides of the ball this year. The Javelinas and Chargers will kick things off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at PSJA ISD Stadium.
PSJA MEMORIAL AT BROWNSVILLE LOPEZ
A win evaded PSJA Memorial all of 2019, but a matchup with the Brownsville Lopez Lobos gives the Wolverines a chance to start off this season on the right foot. Although the team finished 0-10, PSJA Memorial proved it can be competitive with hard-fought losses. This year’s group will look to go from just competing to winning ball games. The Wolverines and Lobos are slated for a 7:30 tonight start at Sams Memorial Stadium.