Patriots face tough path through playoffs

Last Thursday night’s regular season finale loss to the Edinburg Vela Sabercats was a costly one for the Veterans Memorial Patriots. From a share of a title to an easier path through the playoffs, the fact that the Patriots’ early 18-point lead turned into a 12-point loss, could end up being much more costly to the Patriots than even their most avid of fans realize.

Let’s review what the loss has already cost the Patriots and what it could cost them in the days or weeks to come.

A share of the District 31-5A title20151105 EVHS vs VMHS Game lg 34

Had the Patriots held on to their early lead Thursday night and emerged victorious over the Sabercats, they would’ve walked off the field at Tom Landry Stadium as district co-champions – a feat that a Patriots football team has accomplished only one other time in the school’s 12-year history when they shared the District 32-4A championship with Weslaco East in 2010. With the loss the Patriots instead had to settle for a tie with Sharyland as district runner-ups.

End regular season win streak

Not having lost since Week 6 when they fell to the Sharyland Rattlers 29-27, the Patriots were looking at the possibility of entering this weekend’s bi-district round of the playoffs on a five-game winning streak. Last Thursday night’s loss however now has them looking to bounce back from a heart-breaking loss rather than riding the momentum of a win streak.

Possible home playoff game

Had the Patriots defeated the Sabercats, their bi-district opponent would’ve been the Brownsville Porter Cowboys. In that case both schools’ athletic coordinators would’ve gotten together to decide if the game would be played at a neutral site or if they would flip a coin with the winning team having home field advantage. Since neutral sites are usually reserved for games between teams with much more significant mileage between them, the Cowboys and the Patriots would’ve almost certainly flipped a coin giving Veterans Memorial a 50-50 shot at hosting the game.

However, the Patriots’ first round opponents are the Donna Redskins, the same team the Patriots defeated at Tom Landry Stadium in the bi-district round last year. This means the Redskins automatically get home field advantage.

Easier path through the playoffs

Finally, had the Patriots defeated Vela, they would’ve entered the playoffs as the top seed in Class 5A Division I and not as the second seed. With higher seeds being matched up against lower seeds, the 4-2 Patriots are now looking at the unenviable task of going up against the 7-0 Redskins tonight instead of the 4-3 Porter Cowboys that Vela will be facing. In addition, should the Patriots defeat the Redskins tonight they will most likely have to face 7-1 Victoria West in next week’s Area Round instead of the winner of the 4-3 Uvalde Coyotes vs the 5-3 Victoria East Titans bi-district round game that Vela will be matched up against in the likely event that they defeat Porter.

As for tonight’s game against Donna, Veterans Memorial head coach David Gilpin said, “They’ve won seven in a row right now. They were kind of in the same boat last year when they got hot late but they came in here to Tom Landry Stadium and we battled them hard. Our kids are fighters. They give us the type of effort that we ask for week-in and week-out, so we were able to come out with a win last year in the bi-district round.”

“It’s going to take a great effort against them again,” added Gilpin. “We’ve seen Donna twice already and they’re outstanding. We’ve got our work cut out for us but we’re going to go into Donna and try to win us a championship.”

So while the odds of the Patriots making a run deep into the playoffs have been hurt by last week’s loss, the immortal words uttered by Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back of “Never tell me the odds!” could be the Patriots’ motto as they go for their second bi-district championship against the Redskins in as many years.

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