WESLACO — A record number of high school football teams at the Class 6A level across the Rio Grande Valley have temporarily hit pause on football activities temporarily due to COVID-19 concerns, but one of the RGV’s perennial powers will make its long-awaited return Friday highlighting a limited but robust slate of 6A games this week.

Mission High and PSJA High enter program-wide quarantines for two weeks each retroactive to the weekend after both schools cited new coronavirus concerns within their respective football programs after the Bears played the Eagles on Thursday night in Pharr.

Edinburg Vela and Brownsville Rivera are off this week too, as the SaberCats and Raiders both enter the second week of program-wide self-quarantines, which has led to additional games being canceled.

The Weslaco High Panthers, however, are set to resume football activities this week after a two-week team quarantine with their long-awaited return to the Valley’s Friday night lights when they open up against the Harlingen South Hawks with expectations as high as ever following a second straight trip to the UIL Class 6A DI Region IV semifinals.

“The bar has been set here at Weslaco. When you go to the third round in back-to-back years, expectations are high,” second-year Weslaco High head football coach Roy Stroman said. “The expectations are still high, but I’ve told these guys last year’s team was last year’s team. Our main focus is that I want you to be the best version of you.”

That will be imperative moving forward for the Panthers, who should rely on one of the Rio Grande Valley’s deepest defensive units led by linebacker Josh Burket and defensive end Alexis Muñoz after Weslaco’s high-powered offense paved the way in 2019.

The Hawks should be a good initial test for the Panthers’ defense after Harlingen South tallied five rushing touchdowns in its season opener against Donna North before being shutout in the Bird Bowl by Harlingen High last Friday.

Weslaco High and Harlingen South will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bobby Lackey Stadium in Weslaco.

COUGARS, JAGS BOTH LOOK FOR REBOUND WIN

The Edinburg North Cougars and Edinburg Economedes Jaguars will headline the only district contest in 31-6A this weekend in a crosstown rivalry game.

Economedes has struggled defensively through the opening two weeks of its season but has shown big-play ability in both the rushing and passing game offensively. The Jags will have to look to establish more offensive consistency, though, against one of the district’s stoutest defenses in Edinburg North.

The Cougars have a penchant for forcing turnovers and have been tough to score in the opening weeks of the season. Edinburg North showed more balance offensively in its last outing, a narrow defeat at the hands of district foe PSJA North, but struggled to put points on the board.

Senior quarterback Michael Rodriguez and junior running back Jean Carlo Reyes should have an easier go against an Economedes defense that struggled to contain Edinburg High senior Shandon Woodard in another rivalry game last week.

Both the Cougars and Jags will be looking for much-needed rebound wins to keep pace in 31-6A. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.

DONNA NORTH LOOKS TO KEEP BUILDING AT HARLINGEN

The Harlingen High Cardinals are coming off a second straight dominant defensive effort, as the team has only allowed six points through eight quarters of play so far this season.

That should provide a litmus test for a Donna North offense that has shown positive strides despite being mired in the Valley’s longest active winless streak.

That streak likely won’t be snapped against the Cardinals, one of 32-6A’s preseason favorites, but the matchup should provide the Chiefs and first-year head coach Juan Cuevas an idea of how far they’ve progressed offensively since last season against one of the top defenses in RGV.

Donna North found the end zone multiple times against both Harlingen South and Edcouch-Elsa, playing the Yellow Jackets to within two scores last week.

For Harlingen, however, this matchup should serve as an opportunity to showcase its offensive depth and talent after two games where defense carried the day.

The Cardinals and Chiefs will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen.

LOS FRESNOS, SAN BENITO JOCKEY FOR PLAYOFF POSITIONS

Los Fresnos and San Benito were each surprised by an upstart Brownsville Hanna squad that has taken over the driver’s seat in 32-6A’s east zone.

The Golden Eagles are sitting pretty at 2-0, but enter a bye week after their rivalry game with Brownsville Rivera was postponed, making the Falcons-Greyhounds game the only east zone contest to watch this week in 32-6A.

In a district matchup that should pit two of the Valley’s hungriest teams against one another, expect Los Fresnos and San Benito to get into a defensive duel.

Both teams struggled to score and consistently move the ball downfield in losses against Hanna and each will badly need a win to stay in the district championship picture and position themselves well heading into 32-6A’s postseason play-in weekend at the beginning of December with the loser likely having to travel to Harlingen or Weslaco for a win-or-go-home game.

The Greyhounds and Falcons will square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Los Fresnos.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch