Tom Landry Stadium will be rocking tonight as the Veterans Memorial Patriots and the Mission Eagles face off on the gridiron for their annual head-to-head, east side versus west side matchup. While the Eagles and the Patriots have met on the football field many times before, tonight’s contest will be unlike any other Eagles-Patriots game. Not necessarily as a result of the play on the field but definitely due to the look and feel of the game due to its surroundings.
As fans of both teams will certainly notice as soon as they’ve made their way up one of the ramps and emerged from under the bleachers, the natural grass is gone and brand new artificial turf has been installed. In addition, a new state-of-the-art track encircles the field, a new fieldhouse has been erected on the west end of the field, a new Eagle sculpture and Patriot sculpture have been erected at Tom Landry Stadium.
With all the improvements the stadium has undergone, the Patriots now having a sculpture they can call their own and with tonight’s contest being a non-district game for the first time in three years, this matchup has all the makings of being a celebration of the community of Mission coming together.
One of the players Eagle head coach Mario Pena will be counting on to lead the Eagles’ defensive unit this year is senior linebacker Eddie Garcia.
“The fact that we’ll be the first senior class to use the new stadium and the new fieldhouse makes us all feel really excited about this season,” said Garcia. “I take a lot of pride in Mission being my hometown and Mission High being my school. My parents attended school here so we all take pride in the fact that this is the original high school. There is so much tradition here and that is something that motivates us to do our best.”
“We’ll be playing for pride against the Patriots,” added Garcia. “It’s the west side against the east side and we take a lot of pride here on the west side because a lot of people tend to look down on the west side.”
Mission senior receiver Robert Veliz Jr. shared similar sentiments when he was asked what being an Eagle means to him.
“It means a lot to me to be a Mission Eagle,” said Veliz. “I just want to keep the tradition going. With all the improvements that have been made to the stadium and with our new fieldhouse it makes us want to work harder and it makes us feel as if we can do even more now that we have a new field and a new weight room.”
“But having a new field is not enough because we have to show everyone that we can play,” added Veliz. “As a senior I take my role as a team leader really seriously. We have to show these young guys what being an Eagle is all about and how much pride we have here on the west side.”
In his third year as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, Santos Villarreal was among the VMHS players in attendance at the raising of the Patriot statue at Tom Landry Stadium last week. As he prepared for tonight’s game against the Eagles, Villarreal shared how having the statue at one end of the field will make Tom Landry Stadium feel more like home.
“Seeing that statue at the stadium felt really good,” said Villarreal. “That field is obviously right next to their school so somehow, someway they wanted to let them know that it’s our field too. We share that field and having a Patriot statue there lets people know that when you come to our city of Mission you’re not just playing the Eagles, you’re playing us too.”