DONNA — It’s been a season unlike any other for Donna North head football coach Juan Cuevas, who’s had to tackle the challenges of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating his first full season as a head coach in unique circumstances.

That hasn’t slowed down the Chiefs’ offense much, though, which ranks as one of District 32-6A’s leading passing attacks through the opening month of the season.

Junior quarterback Robert Gomez and senior receivers Aiden Gomez and Rodrigo Rodriguez combine to make one of the 32-6A’s most effective aerial attacks. Gomez and Rodriguez are a pair of physical, tall receivers that will cause mismatches for opposing secondaries.

The Chiefs, however, will have their work cut out for them against a stingy Weslaco High defense in both teams’ 32-6A west zone finales.

The Panthers played lockdown defense against the Harlingen High Cardinals in The Monitor’s Game of the Week, holding their opponents to six first-half points and forcing five turnovers, but ultimately fell 13-10.

Weslaco’s offense struggled against a physical Harlingen defensive front. The key to unlocking the offense and slowing Donna North’s passing attack for the Panthers will be dominating at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be hoping to push the Panthers to the brink with the west zone’s top passing offense and snap the Rio Grande Valley’s longest active winless streak, which currently sits at 27 games.

“Donna, Texas is rich in football tradition. I feel that (during) this time during this pandemic, everybody is looking for some normality,” Cuevas said. “Football is something that binds everybody together and brings the community together. I believe that this is something positive for the community to rally around and support not only Donna North but Donna High too this season. We want them to have something to cheer about and something to be proud about.”

The Weslaco High Panthers (1-1, 1-1) and Donna North Chiefs (0-3, 0-2) will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bobby Lackey Stadium in Weslaco.

VELA HOPES TO KEEP ROLLING AGAINST EDINBURG NORTH

Edinburg Vela returned to the field for the first time in 22 days Friday when the SaberCats thrashed crosstown rival Edinburg Economedes in a dominant return.

Vela retained its No. 1 spot in the RGVSports.com Top 10 Poll after registering its second win of the season and now rolls into another rivalry game against the Edinburg North Cougars with all the momentum on its side.

The SaberCats struck early and often through the air against Economedes, a trend that’s likely to continue this week as the group faces a veteran Cougars’ defensive front.

Vela senior quarterback AJ Sotelo showed why he’s one of the Valley’s top talents behind center, completing 21 of 32 passes for 285 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Jags.

Sotelo connected on a pair of long bombs in that contest, one from 35 yards out to receiver Carlos Tamez and another to wideout Justin Vega from 34 yards out, for touchdowns that put that game out of reach.

Expect the SaberCats’ to strive for the same offensively in this matchup and make it difficult for Edinburg North’s run-based offense to keep pace against one of the Valley’s toughest rush defenses.

The Edinburg Vela SaberCats (2-0, 1-0) and Edinburg North Cougars (2-2, 2-2) will square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.

‘BATTLE OF THE ARROYO’ TAKES CENTERSTAGE IN EAST VALLEY

The Harlingen Cardinals sealed a District 32-6A west zone championship with a come-from-behind victory over Weslaco High in The Monitor’s Game of the Week, but this week’s cross-zone rivalry matchup may be even more revealing.

The Cardinals, who can boast one of the RGV’s stingiest defenses at the Class 6A level, will host the San Benito Greyhounds in The Battle of the Arroyo, one of the Rio Grande Valley’s oldest and fiercest football rivalries.

The Greyhounds have roared back after a season-opening loss to Brownsville Hanna, clobbering Los Fresnos and Brownsville Rivera in back-to-back games to set up this high-profile rivalry matchup with the Cardinals.

With injuries starting to play a factor, San Benito may have to rely on its passing game to generate enough offensive momentum to unseat the Cardinals at the top of District 32-6A in what should be a clash between two of the Valley’s elite defensive units.

The Harlingen High Cardinals (4-0, 3-0) and San Benito Greyhounds (2-1, 2-1) will duel at 7 p.m. Friday at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen.

BROWNSVILLE HANNA LOOKS TO LOCK UP 32-6A EAST ZONE TITLE

Brownsville Hanna started the 2020 high school football season as hot as any team in the Rio Grande Valley. The Golden Eagles earned huge wins in district play over both Los Fresnos and San Benito to start the season.

Hanna hasn’t played in a few weeks due to COVID concerns and scheduling difficulties, but the Golden Eagles will return to action this week with an opportunity to lock up the District 32-6A east zone title with a win over crosstown rival Brownsville Rivera.

The Raiders’ offense showed promise and signs of improvement last week in a loss to San Benito, but Rivera will need to pull out a strong defensive performance to slow down a high-powered Hanna offense led by quarterback Diego Escovar.

Should the Golden Eagles win, they will secure a spot in the District 32-6A championship game against Harlingen High in early December.

The Brownsville Hanna Golden Eagles (2-0, 2-0) and Brownsville Rivera Raiders (0-2, 0-2) will battle at 7 p.m. Thursday at Sams Memorial Stadium in Brownsville.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch