Officially its name is Benny Layton Memorial Stadium, but it’s come to be known as the “Black Hole.” That is the nickname for the Edcouch Elsa Yellow Jackets home stadium and that is where the Mission Eagles will be looking to lay claim on District 32-4A supremacy over the previously top-ranked Yellow Jackets with a win tonight.
While some may find a trip to the Black Hole to be intimidating, Mission head coach Mario Peña is not among them. That is because he and his Eagles have done what few others have found a way to do. That is to neutralize the Yellow Jackets’ sting and defeat them not once, not twice, but three times in a row.
“The last three outings that we have had against Edcouch we have beaten Edcouch,” explained Peña. “Since I’ve been here at Mission, Edcouch has not been able to beat us. They’ve always been a powerhouse in 4-A, and I know that they are definitely looking forward to playing us, but I’m telling our team that they are the top rated team in 32-4A so our quest for the district title has to go through Edcouch so they know what’s at stake.”
“The bottom line is that we don’t fear Edcouch,” added Peña. “They’ve got 15 starters coming back from a team that went three rounds deep into the playoffs last year, so the talent is there. We respect them, but we can play.”
Mission’s 49-0 win over Valley View last week in the Eagles’ district opener was just what Peña has been waiting for. Not just a district win but a game in which his players exhibited the energy and enthusiasm that he had yet to see in his team this season.
“We needed the breakout game that we had against Valley View last week,” shared Peña. “More so on offense than on defense. Defensively we have been playing well and we’re definitely the number one defense in our district. But we’ve been needing the offense to complement our defense and keep us off the field.”
One change that Peña made for the Valley View game was at the quarterback position. He went with one of his defensive backs, Jerry Barrera, behind center for most of the game bringing in former starter Steven Cavasos in only select situations.
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“We brought in Jerry Barrera at quarterback and I knew that he was going to do something special,” Peña said. “He’s a very mobile and very shifty athlete. I felt that with him at the gun it would make everybody around him a little better because we knew that once they started keying on him it was going to open up things for the rest of our players.”
“Steven right now is probably a better passer but we’re working with Jerry and we’re hoping to get to where we can use both of them at quarterback,” added Peña. “Right now we’re using Steven when we go into our no-huddle, two-minute offense. Basically what we’re doing is adapting to our personnel.”
Amazingly enough, the Eagles managed to put 49 points on the scoreboard against Valley View having completed only two passes for 25 yards total. It was Mission’s running game with 52 rushes for 415 yards that carried the offense and led to seven touchdowns on the night.
With their defense continuing to play well and their offense starting to come around, Peña is now focusing on his special teams’ play.
“The one area that we’re really trying to harp in on is our special teams,” explained Peña. “Our kickoff team has kind of let us down some so that is something that we’re really working hard on.”
In his 34 years of coaching football Peña has learned the importance of not only preparing his team for a big game but doing it in such a way as to have his players peak at just the right time. That is what Peña has been doing all week and what he hopes will pay off at the Black Hole tonight.
“You’ve got to know how to get ready for a football game,” said Peña. “You can’t afford to come out flat against any team but especially not against a team like Edcouch. On the other hand you don’t want to get the players up for a game too early. If you get them too pumped up on Monday or Tuesday then they won’t be at their best on Friday. It’s a matter of the timing and getting them pumped up for game day.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.