For more than 650 years, people flocked to arenas across the Roman Empire to watch armed and highly trained gladiators engage in combat that oftentimes resulted in death. Contests were typically single combat between two men of similar size and experience. In some cases, however, referees oversaw the action and would stop the battle as soon as one of the participants was seriously wounded.
Tonight, the 3-0 Roma Gladiators will be marching into La Joya ISD Stadium to battle the 2-1 Palmview Lobos. While the stakes will not be as high as they were in ancient Rome, the combatants on both sides of the field will have at least two things in common with the original gladiators. They will all be highly trained and armed – not with harpoons, swords or tridents but with size, strength and speed.
One of the Lobos’ deadliest weapons so far this season has been running back Joel Pina. In just three games Pina has run for nearly 700 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. When asked what the secret to his success has been Pina said, “What I’ve been doing is showing up for weights…weights, weights and that’s all I do. That’s really helped me a lot. Having the big offensive line we have helps too. They go hard and we go hard; that’s teamwork.”
With three touchdowns scored so far this season, senior wide receiver Damian Quintanilla has been one of Lobos’ quarterback Andrew Puente’s favorite targets. As a third-year varsity player, Quintanilla who had seven receptions for 101 yards in the Lobos’ 35-34 overtime loss to Rio Grande City last week, has seen the Lobos go from a 1-9 team just two years ago to bi-district champions last year. Such a dramatic turnaround in just one season is not something that happens every day. Quintanilla credits the Lobos’ sudden success to two things.
“It’s all about work ethic and a desire to win,” Quintanilla said. “The players we have right now all want to make history. We all remember how good things went last year and how it felt. We have a lot of seniors on this team and we’ve been talking about this moment since we were freshmen.”
Having been part of the first Lobos team to qualify for the playoffs, Quintanilla shared how he and his teammates are out to surpass last year’s success.
“We have a lot of goals,” Quintanilla said. “One of our goals is to win the district championship. This is something that we’ve been talking about since our freshman year. We get together after games to talk about how we did and that is one thing we talk about.”
While the Lobos are hoping to make the undefeated Roma Gladiators their next victims, Palmview head football coach Margarito “Mage” Requenez knows they will be going toe-to-toe against a worthy opponent tonight.
“We know they’re tough,” Requenez said. “They have an outstanding running back just like we do. It’s going to come down to who executes and who can stop who first.”
The Gladiators three wins this season came against La Joya (16-7), Laredo Cigarroa (34-3) and Uvalde (30-13). The Lobos conquered Brownsville Lopez (53-7) and PSJA SW (50-26) to open their non-district schedule before falling to the Rio Grande City Rattlers (35-34) in overtime last week. Last year, the two eventual bi-district champs’ head-to-head Week 4 battle ended in a 7-7 tie.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to kickoff at La Joya ISD Stadium at 7:30.