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Game of the Week: Patriots, Pace clash in matchup of district unbeatens

The Mission Veterans Patriots have won six straight games, something not too many teams can say at this point in the football season.

One of the teams that can brag about a six-game win streak, however, is the Brownsville Pace Vikings, the team the Patriots are set to face Saturday as two district unbeatens square off in a game with serious district championship implications.

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Head Coach David Gilpin and the Patriots (6-1, 6-0) have ripped off six straight wins since losing in Week 1 to the Mission Eagles in the Battle of Conway. In that slugfest against one of 30-6A’s toughest teams, the Patriots were held to just 12 points, their lowest scoring output of the year.

Now, in Week 9 of the football season, the Patriots are back rolling on all cylinders, scoring 40-plus points in each game on their way to a 6-0 district record in 16-5A DI.

The Mission Veterans offense is ranked the Valley’s top unit as they’re averaging 526.9 yards per game. Senior Landry Gilpin leads Class 5A with 38 total touchdowns (19 passing, 19 rushing), total yards (419.6 per game) and ranks 7th in rushing yards…as a quarterback.

His number one target this year has been sophomore AJ Gonzaque who’s burst onto the scene with 33 catches, eight of them for touchdowns, and 809 receiving yards which ranks 5th in Class 5A. Last year’s All-Area Newcomer of the Year, junior receiver Mikey Garcia, has missed three games due to injury, but now healthy again, gives Landry Gilpin the Valley’s most dangerous receiving duo along with Gonzaque.

What makes the Patriots’ offensive statistics even more impressive is the fact that their starters rarely play in the fourth quarter. Mission Veterans has been blowing opponents out early and often which results in pulling their ones to get younger guys and second-team players some reps, which can also help keep everybody healthy for the long haul.

With nine district games this year, the battle for the top spot in 16-5A DI began right away for the Patriots. After beating PSJA Memorial 41-10 in the district opener, Mission Veterans knocked off last year’s 32-5A champion Brownsville Veterans Memorial 45-24. While Mission Veterans has established themselves as a dominant force in their new district, their next hurdle boasts an unblemished record in league play.

Just like the Patriots, the Brownsville Pace Vikings (6-1, 6-0) lost their season opener, a 20-17 overtime loss to the Sharyland Rattlers. All the Vikings have done since is string together six straight victories and now find themselves sitting tied at the top of the District 16-5A DI standings with Mission Veterans.

The spark behind the Vikings success has been a sophomore dual-threat quarterback of their own. Jose Banda has passed for 642 yards, rushed for 481, and scored 14 total touchdowns without throwing a single interception.

In order to stop the Brownsville Pace offense, the Mission Veterans defense must start with Banda, and the Patriots are prepared to do just that. The senior trio of linebacker Joey Garcia and defensive backs Gus Garza and Elias Delgado are all averaging over 10 tackles per game, and with Delgado now back from injury, the Patriots defense is only getting stronger.

Brownsville Pace’s strength comes from the defensive side of the ball. They’ve only allowed one opponent to score over 20 points this season and it was in a 48-32 win over PSJA Memorial. While the Viking defense has been successful, they’ll be facing a different animal in Week 9 as they prepare to stop the high-scoring, fast-paced Patriot offense.

As both teams enter Week 9 with six-game win streaks of their own, only one will leave a perfect 7-0 in district when this game is over with an inside track to the District 16-5A DI championship.

Kickoff between the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots and Brownsville Pace Vikings is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at SAMS Stadium in Brownsville.

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