McALLEN — McAllen Memorial and PSJA North are a pair of teams that have embodied the adaptability and scheduling flexibility seemingly required during this one-of-a-kind 2020 high school football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mustangs and Raiders, two former District 30-6A foes, have each run into considerable scheduling difficulties in District 16-5A DI and District 31-6A, respectively.
McAllen Memorial was forced to find a new opponent on the fly after its season opener against the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks was nixed due to COVID-19 concerns less than an hour before kickoff.
The Mustangs picked up a non-district game very quickly with the Harlingen High Cardinals, who were originally supposed to face the Weslaco High Panthers, to play the opening weekend of their season.
The next week after facing the Mercedes Tigers and Edinburg Economedes Jaguars in their season and district openers, respectively, the Raiders gave up their bye week to take on the Edinburg North Cougars after their Week 2 game against Edinburg Vela was also called off due to COVID-19 concerns.
Now, McAllen Memorial and PSJA North have done it again, scheduling each other as replacement opponents in the second last-second matchup of the season for both squads as the district schedules in 31-6A and 16-5A DI have been completely altered and upended.
Head coaches throughout the seven-team District 31-6A told The Monitor that they had voted to adopt a zone schedule for the remainder of the year, which divides the district in two and also chops the regular season down by one week to allow for a district championship game and zone playoff games between each zone’s second and third-place teams the weekend of Dec. 3-5.
District 31-6A will splinter into a south zone consisting of Mission High, PSJA High and PSJA North, while the district’s north zone will feature all four Edinburg schools: Economedes, Edinburg High, North and Vela.
The effects of those changes will be realized quickly, as several 31-6A teams will be out of action for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 concerns.
Edinburg Vela, which has been in a program-wide quarantine since its season-opening win over the Mission Veterans Patriots, confirmed to The Monitor that it will not be eligible to return to football activities until Monday, Nov. 9, which cancels the SaberCats’ scheduled game against the Edinburg High Bobcats this week.
Furthermore, football activities have been temporarily stopped at both Mission High and PSJA High, as well, due to COVID-19 concerns that arose after the Eagles’ and Bears’ game on Thursday in Pharr, according to representatives of both school districts.
Mission has a scheduled bye coming into this week, but its next scheduled game against PSJA North the following week has been postponed. PSJA High’s next game against the Raiders was also canceled with plans of rescheduling later in the season, which freed PSJA North up to play McAllen Memorial on Thursday.
The Mustangs, meanwhile, are one of the only teams in District 16-5A DI’s west zone to successfully traverse the opening weeks of the season and still find an opponent every weekend.
The district’s west zone — which includes Donna High, La Joya Palmview, McAllen High, McAllen Rowe and Memorial — has been mired with canceled games and staggered starts through the opening part of the season.
The zone’s three McAllen schools got a jump start on practices before Donna High and La Joya Palmview, but regular-season gameplay between the five schools has been sporadic so far.
Rowe got its regular season underway a week earlier than everyone else with Donna, McHi and Memorial each following suit the next week. The Bulldogs and Mustangs continued playing district contests this past week, but they were the only ones in 16-5A DI’s west zone to do so.
Donna High had to cancel its game with Rowe due to COVID-19 concerns, and the Warriors were unable to find a replacement opponent last week while La Joya Palmview has yet to play its regular-season opener.
Multiple 16-5A DI head coaches told The Monitor that they voted as a district executive committee over the weekend to allow teams to reschedule makeup zone games every five days which will allow the district’s 10 squads to play games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays on a temporary basis.
District 31-6A coaches told The Monitor that because of their zone format moving forward, they would not adopt schedules that strayed from Thursday and Friday games.
That means that while the Mustangs and Raiders meet in their non-district game Thursday for the third time in three years, it will be sandwiched between three District 16-5A DI west zone games in the next week.
The McHi Bulldogs will host La Joya Palmview in the Lobos’ district opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday, while the Rowe Warriors will travel to face the Brownsville Veterans Chargers of 16-5A DI’s east zone at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Five days later, the Bulldogs and Warriors will meet one another for their crosstown rivalry game at 7 p.m. Monday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium.