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Game of the Week: Eagles eyeing bounce back against Bulldogs

Mission High can go blow-for-blow with any team in the Valley. Win or lose, when lined up across the Eagles, opponents know they’re in for a 48-minute fight.

The Eagles proved it in their Week 1 24-12 takedown of the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots in the Battle of Conway. If that didn’t make you a believer, look at last week’s 38-42 thriller against McAllen Memorial. Although Mission came out on the short end, in going down to the wire against the Mustangs, a team that hasn’t lost a district game since 2013, they proved they belong in the conversation when you’re talking about the best teams in the RGV.

20181005 GOW“It all started Week 1 with Mission Veterans, now look at them dominating their district,” said junior quarterback Damian Gomez. “Then McAllen Memorial, the team in our district; it was tough because we had them. It was a good game and a heartbreaker, but at the end of the day, we gave them a game that they did not expect. We changed the way the district looks at us now.”

The Eagles have taken several steps in the right direction since Head Coach Koy Detmer took over the program three years ago, and it’s clear to see on the practice field and under the Friday night lights. After a 3-7 record in 2016 and a 4-6 record in 2017, Mission High is 3-1 on the year and their arrow is pointing up as they’re solid in all three phases of the game.

“We’ve taken good steps forward,” Detmer said. “I feel like this year we’re kind of taking that step we needed to take. The guys have a true understanding of the offense and the system and being able to execute those things.”

The execution is evident when you look at their final scores and can’t miss when you see them play in person. The Eagle offense has twice put up over 35 points and defensively has held three opponents to under 20, including holding the high-octane Mission Veterans offense to just 12 points, a season-low for the Patriots.

With the loss to Memorial in the rearview, the Eagles are focused on the task in front of them and bouncing back in a big way as they prepare to take on the McAllen High Bulldogs, another team searching for its first district win.

While the Eagles are a team on the rise, the Bulldogs have been the opposite in 2018. With a 1-3 record and coming off a 36-3 beatdown at the hands of Nikki Rowe to open district, McAllen High is a team desperate to turn things around quickly, and Detmer knows you can’t take any opponent lightly in District 30-6A.

“All our focus is on this week,” Detmer said. “McHi, people may say they’re struggling, but the thing about them is when you watch them on film is they have a lot of good players and they’re coached well. In this district, everybody is competitive, and if you’re not right and you don’t go out and perform, you’re going to get beat. We got to go out and have a good showing, we got to play well to win.”

McHi’s main struggle comes from the offensive side of the ball. What seemed a strength a season ago turned into a gaping hole after the departure of two quarterbacks who started under center for the Bulldogs in 2017. Junior Aaron Nixon hung up his football cleats to focus on baseball, while senior J.R. Cortez transferred to Mission High and traded in his purple and gold for maroon as he now makes the Eagles’ quarterback room, along with Gomez and freshman Jeremy Duran, arguably the most talented in the Valley.

Even as the game marks the Eagles’ Homecoming, the players aren’t looking ahead to the festivities, but to avenge last year’s 34-27 loss to the Bulldogs.

Junior tight end/defensive end Rey Garcia hasn’t forgot how his Eagles fought from 20 down at the half to take the lead, only for the Bulldogs to mount a comeback of their own to steal the victory.

“Last year it went down to the wire,” Garcia said. They’re going to give us a game, we just have to go out there and play our game.”

Expect the Eagles to be on their game against the Bulldogs as the Mission offense is picking up steam. The Eagles have scored 20-plus points in all four outings, including dropping 56 on Donna North and 38 on Memorial just last week.

While Gomez (540 total yards, 7 total TDs) leads the Mission offense from the quarterback position, the Eagles have talent all over. Running back Tito Moronta spearheads the Eagles ground attack as the junior is averaging 112 rushing yards with a touchdown per game, and fullback Andrew Maldonado has added 148 yards and two scores of his own. The Eagles also have four pass catchers with over 100-yards receiving on the year led by Garcia, Sebastian Gonzalez and Steve Villarreal.

“It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I got those guys out there that are willing to make plays anytime of the game,” Gomez said. “We got Sebastian almost returning kicks, Tito breaking tackles out of nowhere, it’s like how does he do that? We boost each other up every day in practice. We’re here for each other, we’re a team, and it’s crazy what we could do together.”

Kickoff between the Mission Eagles and the McHi Bulldogs is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium.

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