Analysis: Big 7 football – a season to remember
The 2017 high school football season marks only the second time in the past six years that a Big 7 team has not advanced into the third round of the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL’s) state playoffs. Does that mean that when it comes to the seven teams from the Mission, Sharyland and La Joya school districts, the 2017 season was a failure? Not at all. There were many positives that occurred during the recently completed season that the majority of the seven teams can look back at with pride even if most of them did not occur during postseason play.
The positives actually began during non-district play when this year’s Big 7 teams combined for identical 5-2 Week 1 and Week 2 records compared to a 1-6 Week 1 and a 3-4 Week 2 record last season. Considering the fact that these games were played against the same opponents both years, such a dramatic improvement served as a pretty good indicator of the fact that the Big 7 as a whole was about to have a pretty good year.
While an improved non-district record does not in-and-of-itself make for a successful season, an improved district record does. So let’s take a look at the four Big 7 teams that did improve over last year’s results in regards to their district records.
Veterans Memorial Patriots
After compiling a 5-3 District 31-5A record and a 6-4 overall record last year, the Patriots posted the biggest improvement of any Big 7 team by going 7-1 against district opponents and 9-1 overall this year. In addition, the 2017 Patriots earned a share of the district title which was something they had not done since 2010 when they were co-district champions with Weslaco East.
In the playoffs, the Patriots earned their fourth bi-district championship in a row by defeating Brownsville Lopez by a score of 25-17 in the first game played in the newly renovated and renamed Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium. While an Area round loss to Flour Bluff last Friday resulted in the Patriots failing to advance into the third round of the playoffs, like they did for the first time in school history last year, in pretty much every other way the 2017 season was a highly successful one for Coach David Gilpin and his team.
Like the Patriots, the Sharyland Rattlers compiled a 7-1 District 31-5A record this season to earn a share of the district title. And like the Patriots, the Rattlers earned a bi-district championship when they defeated Brownsville Pace by a score of 59-43. Also like the Patriots, the Rattlers failed to advance into the Regional round when they fell to the Alice Coyotes in triple overtime by a score of 42-39.
Coming off a 6-2 district record last season, the Rattlers did not improve quite as much as the Patriots did but it was their 48-42 Week 10 victory over the Patriots that allowed them to claim a one-third share of the district championship. Considering the fact that they opened their season with a 62-0 non-district loss to the Weslaco East Wildcats, the Rattlers put together a highly successful season even if they did fall just a bit short against Alice.
La Joya Coyotes
The La Joya Coyotes improved just enough this season to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season. After compiling a 2-4 District 30-6A record and a 3-7 overall record last season, the Coyotes improved to 3-3 in district play and 6-4 overall this season. That district record tied them for fourth place with the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies but as a result of their 24-10 Week 9 victory over those same Huskies, the Coyotes held the tie-breaker advantage that gave them the fourth and final 30-6A playoff berth.
The 2017 Coyotes not only qualified for the playoffs, they went into them on a roll. After dropping their first three district games, La Joya defeated Juarez-Lincoln, Nikki Rowe and Palmview in consecutive weeks to even up their record at 3-3 and take their momentum into their bi-district round game against District 29-6A’s co-champions, the 6-1 San Antonio Southwest Dragons. While the Coyotes played the Dragons tough, they fell short by a score of 14-7.
Even though the Coyotes failed to pull off the upset that would’ve earned them a bi-district championship, the 2017 season was still a highly successful one for second year head coach Reuben Farias and his team.
The Juarez-Lincoln Huskies were the fourth Big 7 team to post an improved record in 2017 (3-3 6-4) as compared to 2016 (2-4, 4-6). They won three District 30-6A games in a row to compile a 3-1 record through Week 8 and while it looked as if they were well on their way to the playoffs, consecutive losses to La Joya and McAllen Memorial to close-out their district schedule, left the Huskies in a fourth place tie with the Coyotes. Unfortunately for Coach Tomas Garcia and his Huskies, their loss to La Joya was the determining factor in the tie-breaker that allowed the Coyotes to clinch the district’s fourth and final playoff spot. As a result, the Huskies failed to qualify for the playoffs this season like they did last year. Therefore, whether or not they had a more successful 2017 season than they did in 2016 is debatable. Even so, there is no debating the fact that the Huskies did have a more successful regular season this year than they did last.