At first glance tonight’s game between the 4-0 McAllen Memorial Mustangs and the 1-3 La Joya Coyotes appears to be an easy win for the Mustangs. Not just because, as the defending District 30-6A champions, the Mustangs seem to have picked up where they left off last year, but also because the Coyotes’ only win on their non-district schedule was a narrow 13-6 victory over the second-year, and still winless, Donna North Chiefs.
Then there’s the fact that running back Trevor Speights, the Mustangs’ primary offensive weapon, is back for his senior season and he as well seems to be picking up right where he left off last year. So much so that in just four games, Speights has already rushed for a total of 1,185-yards including 338 yards and six touchdowns on just 17 carries against Edinburg North last week and 373-yards and five touchdowns on 21 carries against San Benito the week before.
While all of these factors may indeed make it look as though tonight’s game could turn out to be a runaway victory for the Mustangs, one factor that has not yet been taken into account is the one that cannot be measured in wins, losses or yards gained – the desire to win.
A look at last year’s matchup between these two teams is all it takes to see how this desire can overcome the odds regardless of how great they may seem. It was the “lowly” Coyotes that gave the highly-touted Mustangs all they could handle when they jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead and led 17-14 at the end of the third quarter. While Memorial did pull out the victory by tacking on a fourth quarter touchdown to defeat the Coyotes 21-17, the fact that La Joya came closer to defeating the Mustangs than any other Valley team did all of last year is reason enough to believe that despite what the so-called “experts” may be expecting to happen, the outcome of tonight’s game is far from being pre-determined.
La Joya senior defensive lineman Anthony Peralez remembers last year’s game against the Mustangs very well. When asked what allowed the Coyotes to play Memorial so tough Peralez said, “We were mentally and physically prepared. Our coaches showed us a lot and we used that knowledge to overcome what others were saying about us. We showed them what we could do.”
While La Joya senior wide receivers Lalo Ochoa, Victor De Hoyos and J.C. Maldonado will not be going up against Speights and the Memorial offense themselves, they all recognize that they and the Coyotes’ offensive unit can help the defensive unit in a big way tonight.
“The longer we have the ball the less their offense is on the field, and Speights can’t score when he’s sitting on the bench,” explained Ochoa. “I feel like our defense is good enough to stop them but we need to put up points and that’s what we’re going to do. We have a great running back of our own in Justin Leanos.”
As for De Hoyos, he believes the key to a Coyotes’ victory tonight will be beating the Mustangs at their own game.
“Coming into this game we know that they are going to put up points,” De Hoyos said. “But we don’t have just one good running back in Justin Leanos, we also have Brandon Ramos and while we haven’t been scoring a lot of points lately, we will have to score more to win this game.”
The fact that La Joya’s three losses leading up to this game all came at the hands of teams that went at least two rounds deep into the playoffs last year is something that Maldonado believes will help the Coyotes tonight.
“We always go up against the best teams,” said Maldonado. “We’re not intimidated by anybody. Memorial may have the best running back in the Valley, but they’re like any other team and they bleed just like we do.”
Tonight’s game between La Joya and McAllen Memorial is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 at McAllen Memorial Stadium.