With Tom Landry Stadium undergoing a facelift, the Battle of Conway was a bit different this year as the Mission Eagles and Veterans Memorial Patriots met in Donna, but the rival schools still delivered another classic game on the field Friday night.
While the game started off as a defensive showcase, stopping each opposing offense, it was the Mission Eagles established themselves early. Sophomore quarterback Damian Gomez and junior wide receiver Sebastian Gonzalez set up the Mission offense at the 1-yard line after Gonzalez won a jump ball that was good enough for 37-yards. Gomez punched in a 1-yard score three plays later put Mission up 7-0.
After forcing the Patriots to turn the ball over on downs, Mission struck again as the Gomez-Gonzalez connection hooked up for 12-yard touchdown on a fade route, giving the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 6:09 to play in the first half.
Facing a 14-point deficit, the Patriots duo of junior quarterback Landry Gilpin and senior wide receiver Buda Gonzalez came alive to spark the Veterans Memorial offense. Buda Gonzalez brought down two catches worth gains of 18 and 22 to set up a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Landry Gilpin.
“It’s just a connection we have,” Buda Gonzalez said. “It started in 7-on-7 from the summer running routes, and he just depends on me so I’m out there making plays for him and our team.”
The extra point was blocked, allowing Mission to take a 14-6 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, Patriots’ Head Coach David Gilpin’s group came together and responded after admittedly getting beat in the first half.
“Both sides showed up tonight and we were able to find a way to rebound in the second half after a lackluster first half,” David Gilpin said. “We figured if we upped our level of intensity and played with fire in our bellies, now we’re moving.”
Landry Gilpin opened the third quarter with a 22-yard touchdown run, dodging and ducking defenders, but failed to score on the two-point conversion, leaving the Patriots trailing the Eagles 14-12 with 9:06 left to play in the third.
Penalties plagued both teams all night but stunted the Eagles next drive, giving the Patriots a window to take advantage. Landry Gilpin, Buda Gonzalez and sophomore running back Daniel Cantu provided an 11-play drive for the Patriots that was capped off with another Landry Gilpin score, his third of the night. The team missed on the extra point attempt to bring the score to a final of 18-14.
Sitting at 2-0 after games against Harlingen and Mission, Head Coach David Gilpin is ready to start the district grind.
“At the end of the day, when you got a rivalry game, you take the win and you go home,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s 2-0 or if it’s 100-98, you’re glad to get out of this one and now we’re moving on to district play. We’ve had a rough start to our season as far as the caliber of our opponents … to find a way to win both of those games says where our program is headed.”
Landry Gilpin finished with 97 passing yards and 152 rushing yards with three scores on the ground, while Buda Gonzalez led the game in receiving with 72 yards on four receptions.
Gomez, in his season debut, put up 54 passing yards and one touchdown to go with his 32 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground. Sebastian Gonzalez has two catches for 49 yards and a score.
The Eagles move to 1-1 on the year, but Head Coach Koy Detmer was proud of the way his guys fought against the Patriots in a big game.
“Our team has fought hard and the one thing I got a lot of respect for is the way they play from the first play to the last play and give it everything they have,” Detmer said. “Yes, it’s disappointing; it hurts, but we got a long road ahead of us, and we’ll get ourselves ready to go.”