The Veterans Memorial Patriots are bi-district champions! As a result of their 17-14 win over the Donna Redskins Friday evening the Patriots have advanced into the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in four years.
An opportunistic Veterans Memorial offense capitalized on two Redskins special teams’ turnovers to build a 10-0 first half lead. A Santos Villarreal to Roman De Leon pass accounted for the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game.
The Patriots tacked on seven more points in the third quarter when Villarreal capped off an 80-yard drive with a keeper into the end zone. Veterans Memorial’s 17 point lead held up through the end of the third quarter and while having a three score lead with only 12 minutes left in the game should’ve been plenty to close-out the game, Donna was not about to let their season come to an end without putting up a fight.
The Redskins closed the gap to 17-7 by scoring their first touchdown of the game at the 11:22 mark of the fourth quarter and then closed the gap to three with 5:25 remaining on the clock when they drove the ball down the field and into the end zone after a Villarreal interception.
After stopping the Patriots offense on their next possession the Redskins got the ball back with over four minutes to go in the game and with the momentum on their side and their fans cheering them on the Patriots’ three point lead seemed precarious at best.
However Veterans Memorial’s defense stopped the Redskins on a fourth down play to seal the win, and the bi-district title, for the Patriots.
“It’s been way too long since we’ve made it into the second round,” said Patriots’ head coach David Gilpin after the game. “When you work 365 days of the year to become a champion and you play in a district like ours with teams like Sharyland and Edinburg Vela, we gave it everything we had but we didn’t get there for the district championship. We had an opportunity tonight to claim a championship of our own and our guys took care of business.”
“Everybody knew this was going to be a battle and like I told the reporters earlier in the week, this was probably going to be the best game in the Valley,” added Gilpin. “I feel very fortunate that we were able to get out to a 17-0 lead but it was certainly not over and Donna came back as I assumed they would.”
Next up for Veterans Memorial will be Corpus Christi Flour Bluff in the area round. The game is scheduled to be played Friday Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Flour Bluff High School.