In the opening weeks of a 2020 high school football season like none that came before it, Edinburg North looks to be one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most improved squads from the beginning of the offseason to this point.

The Cougars (1-0, 1-0) notched an impressive season-opening win against the PSJA High Bears in the District 31-6A opener for both teams. Edinburg North stopped the prolific PSJA passing attack with a goal-line stand to earn the school’s first victory in a season opener since 2014.

“It was exciting. I’ve been preaching to the kids that we have a lot of experience with this group and experience came through at the end last week,” Edinburg North head football coach Damian Gonzalez said. “Having a lot of games and that playoff game under our belts helped a lot. If it had been a year before or the year before that, we maybe would have lost that game. But the kids responded and the kids were excited. It’s been a few years since we’ve started off with a win and we were telling the kids about that all week.”

Edinburg North was scheduled to take on Edinburg Vela on Thursday, but the SaberCats had to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns so PSJA North (1-1, 1-0) sacrificed its bye week to accept the challenge.

It’s a matchup that should pit two of the district’s top rushers against one another in Cougars’ junior Jean Carlo Reyes and Raiders’ junior Isaac Gonzalez, both of whom are coming off monster games.

Gonzalez rushed for four touchdowns and topped 100 yards on the ground for the second consecutive week in a comeback win over Edinburg Economedes, while Reyes ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries in his first start out of Edinburg North’s backfield.

“At the end of the day, the kids are going to get another chance to play instead of having a bye week,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully we get to get more games in, but we’re taking it day by day.”

The Cougars and Raiders clash at 7 p.m. Thursday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.

BEARS, EAGLES TO DUEL IN MEETING OF DISTRICT CHAMPS

Mission and PSJA High battled in an exhilarating shootout in 2019, culminating in a 36-28 Bears win and a share of the District 30-6A title for both sides.

In 2020, the Bears (0-1, 0-1) will be hoping to bounce back after a tough season-opening loss against Edinburg North, while the Eagles (1-0, 1-0) will look to keep it rolling after a dominant first game back against the Edinburg High Bobcats.

“We had so many chances and fell just short,” PSJA High head football coach Lupe Rodriguez said of his team’s narrow Week 1 defeat. “That was the positive we took out of this game: we didn’t give up, which showed the resiliency of our group. There’s no quit in our program. We always talk about finding a way and they did that. They fought all the way down to the 5-yard line with a chance to tie, and considering the way we played, it does speak volumes for this program’s fight.”

It’s a matchup that pits two of the Valley’s best secondaries against one another in addition to featuring one of the RGV’s most established veteran gunslingers against one of its bright up-and-comers.

Eagles’ junior Jeremy Duran looked impressive throwing for more than 300 yards in addition to three touchdowns in the first game of his third season as Mission High’s starting quarterback, a position both head coaches in this matchup used to occupy.

PSJA High will have to keep pace with Mission’s prolific offense to avoid falling in an early first-half hole, but Rodriguez is confident the Bears have found their quarterback of the future in freshman Jaime Lopez, who threw for 246 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns in his first varsity start and regular-season high school football game period.

“He showed his inexperience, but he learned a lot from this game,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve still got a long way to go and the last two years we were blessed with two great quarterbacks in Justin (Morales) and Trey (Guajardo). We try to mimic what we’ve done in the past, but he’s a good athlete and he has the potential, it’s just a matter of not making mistakes.”

The Bears will host the Eagles at 7 p.m. Thursday at PSJA ISD Stadium in Pharr.

EDINBURG HIGH, ECONOMEDES RENEW ANNUAL RIVALRY

In what was originally billed as a two-part, Edinburg-centric rivalry week, the Bobcats (0-1, 0-1) and Jaguars (0-1, 0-1) will take center stage after Edinburg Vela canceled its crosstown rivalry game with Edinburg North to enter a two-week, program wide self-quarantine.

Both Economedes and Edinburg High will be looking to pick up wins to keep pace in a deep District 31-6A with a shortened season and an unknown number of opportunities to play regular-season games.

The Jaguars jumped out to a great start in their season opener in Pharr last Friday, taking a 21-21 tie into the locker room at halftime against PSJA North. However, Economedes’ experienced offense struggled to gain traction in the second half and its young defense struggled to corral a power running back.

That could spell trouble for the Jags, who find themselves now having to defend Bobcats senior back Shandon Woodard, the reigning 31-6A rushing leader after a breakout junior season.

Woodard and the Edinburg High offense had trouble getting going until the second half in their season opener against Mission, but senior defensive end Emmanuel Duron made a case for being the district’s single-most dominant defensive player in his last outing, which included a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Economedes and Edinburg High will renew their rivalry with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter:@ByAndyMcCulloch