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20110809_FOOTBALL_MISSION-EAGLES_LG_LEG_633630-5A was a punch in the mouth for Mission High School in 2010. The football team, particularly, had a long season, limping to a 4-6 record overall and 2-5 in District 30-5A. The season was especially disappointing when contrasted with the 2009 team that brought home the District 32-4A championship.

Thus the goal for 2011 is to return to that glory. To produce the defense and the solid running offense that the Eagles have shown they are capable of producing. It won’t be easy and there are plenty of skeptics including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football that has the Eagles finishing one spot from last place in the district standings.

To be sure, there are plenty of questions. First, who will lead the team as signal caller, replacing three-year starter Gilbert Garcia? The answer seems to be junior Juan Rios.

What Rios may lack in experience, he makes up for with a big body that can move surprisingly quickly and an arm that can get the ball where it needs to be. Rios will have a target in Edgar Cardenas. Leading the front line will be center Jose Aldana who will be counted on to ensure each play begins smoothly with an accurate toss to Rios out of the shotgun.

Behind the new signal caller will be George Martinez at the running back. Martinez possesses strong legs that can hit holes fast and allow for some shifty feet maneuvering. If all goes as planned, Martinez will provide Rios the relief of having to produce down after down, allowing the quarterback to mature as the season goes on.

A relief for the Eagles will be the presence of a strong defense, led by outside linebacker Derek Villegas. With 110 tackles in 2010, Villegas is the district’s lead returning tackler and hopes for an outstanding senior campaign as he competes with Sharyland’s Jacob Rodriguez for district defensive MVP.

There should be an adequate amount of talent around Villegas. Fellow linebackers Alberto Roque and Erick Flores will help out, as well as free safety Miguel Garcia. A senior, Garcia has a strong, tall body, and will have the responsibility for stopping the big plays, as well as making some big interceptions of his own.

Of course, the question is can the Eagles turn things around this year? A favorable schedule will help. After a matchup with private school San Antonio Holy Cross, the Eagles will get the opportunity to obtain revenge for last year’s rivalry loss to Veterans Memorial. Then, to finish the non-district schedule, the Eagles play home to Brownsville Pace, whom they beat last year, 21-14.

The district schedule is favorable as well. A watered-down district from a year ago, Mission plays host to Memorial and Sharyland, the district favorites but not overwhelmingly above the rest of the competition, including Mission. The hardest road games will be Palmview, the district opener, and McAllen on October 7.

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