It’s a good news/bad news scenario for Coach David Gilpin and the Veterans Memorial Patriots football team. The good news is that after letting a 17-0 fourth quarter lead almost slip away, the Patriots held off a determined Donna Redskins team to take their first bi-district championship in four years by a score of 17-14. The bad news is that as a result of that win Veterans Memorial will now be taking on the state’s sixth ranked team, the 11-0 Corpus Christi Flour Bluff Hornets on their home field in the area round of the state playoffs.
Not that Gilpin is looking at the opportunity of playing Flour Bluff tonight as bad news but having to take on one of the state’s top teams in only the second round is not the way he would’ve drawn things up had he had been given a choice.
While the Patriots have lost to the Hornets two of the last three times they’ve met in the playoffs, Flour Bluff has not necessarily dominated the series.
“The last time we played them was two years ago when they were 10-0 and ranked 11th in the state,” said Gilpin. “They did beat us 49-37, but we got into the fourth quarter in the game. The first time we played them, back six years ago, we also got into the fourth quarter in the game. The second time we played them we beat them. So we’re 1-2 against them and obviously being undefeated in a very tough district they’re a very good football team and obviously we’ll have our work cut out for us against them.”
Gilpin is well aware that his defense will have to step it up tonight to keep the Patriots in the game.
“We’ve struggled defensively against their athleticism in the past,” explained Gilpin. “We’ve been able to score on them, but it’ll be interesting to see how we compete against them this time around.”
So far this season, the Patriots have outscored their opponents 283-217. Flour Bluff, however, has outscored their opponents by an almost 2-1 margin, 441-226. If the Patriots are going to pull off an upset tonight and advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in school history, it will take the kind of total team effort Gilpin has seen his boys put together in the postseason before.
“Something that has been true about our kids since we started this program is that they have played their best football in the playoffs,” said Gilpin. “Other than a disappointing game last year against Laredo Martin, which I take full responsibility for, because we didn’t respect Martin the way we should have, we have competed in each one of our playoff games – win or lose. And that includes our game last week against Donna.”
“I have every bit of faith in our coaching staff and in our kids that we will come out and give it our best effort,” added Gilpin
Veterans Memorial defeated Donna last week despite having lost seven out of their original 22 starters to injury or illness. This is a testament to the never-say-die attitude Gilpin and his staff have instilled in their players. While the majority of those seven will not be available to suit up tonight, Gilpin is looking forward to the return of one player in particular.
“We won’t have our running back John Garcia tonight,” explained Gilpin. “He has a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament). Albert Garcia our defensive lineman is out for the season with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Kevin Liebano, our safety, however will be back after having had a fever last week and that will be a big addition for us. Having lost those three players last week and the way that our kids raised their level of play and were able to go out there and persevere with a next-man-up attitude last Friday was incredible.”
Tonight’s area round matchup between Veterans Memorial and Flour Bluff is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Flour Bluff High School. The winner will advance to the regional round of the playoffs where they will take on the winner of tomorrow afternoon’s game between Lockhart and Austin Vandegrift.