District 30-6A has proven to be one of the toughest in the Rio Grande Valley. With six of the eight teams boasting records over .500, it’s only fitting the last two playoff spots up for grabs comes down to the final week of the regular season.
Two teams fighting for those final two spots in the postseason are the Mission Eagles (7-2, 4-2) and La Joya Coyotes (6-3, 3-3) who will meet Friday night in a must-win game between the Big 7 teams.
For Mission, it’s simple: win and you’re in. The Eagles currently sit at 4-2 in district play, and with a win, could clinch the first playoff berth under Head Coach Koy Detmer in his three years with the program, and the school’s first since 2012.
In order for the Coyotes to claim a playoff spot, they’ll need to win while picking up a little help from McAllen Memorial. If La Joya beats Mission, they’ll need the Mustangs (4-2) to win over Nikki Rowe (3-3) to lock up the fourth and final playoff spot. If La Joya beats Mission but Nikki Rowe beats Memorial, it will create a four-way tie at 4-3 for the third and fourth seeds, which will then be determined by points.
PSJA and PSJA North have already clinched playoff spots, setting up a drama filled season finale for the four schools–La Joya, Mission, Memorial, and Rowe–fighting for the final two spots in this year’s state playoffs.
In last year’s meeting between Mission and La Joya, the Eagles bested the Coyotes 20-15 in what was the district opener. The Mission defense held La Joya’s bruising running back Eddie Villarreal to 152 scoreless yards on the ground, a tough task for any unit.
This year, Villarreal enters Week 11 as 30-6A’s leading rusher with 1,470 yards and 21 touchdowns on 223 carries, as he’s coming off a 375 yard, four touchdown performance against Nikki Rowe just last week. Now, he’ll be looking to cement his status as the district’s top back against the Eagles’ defense in the season finale.
Lining up across from Villarreal, however, is a defense ready and willing to take on the challenge.
The Mission defense has been lights out in their last two games as they held the district champion PSJA Bears’ high-scoring offense to just seven points after holding Nikki Rowe to seven the week before. The linebacker combination of Aleksander Gomez, Joe Resendez and Justin Soto will be ready to meet Villarreal head on come kickoff Friday night.
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is the fact that Mission has been getting it done with a freshman quarterback under center. When junior starter Damian Gomez broke his collarbone in Week 7 against Juarez-Lincoln, Detmer brought in freshman Jeremy Duran. Duran finished that game with a dramatic come-from-behind 16-14 victory, and has gone 2-1 as a starter to prevent the Eagles from losing any ground, with a 24-7 win over PSJA and a 38-7 win over Rowe.
In the backfield with Duran are two dangerous weapons who can dish out some punishment of their own. Junior running back Horacio Moronta and sophomore fullback Andrew Maldonado have helped lessen the load on Duran’s shoulders with their ability to break games open by running around and through people.
Now, the freshman quarterback and his backfield mates can help the Eagles earn their first playoff berth in six years with a win over the Coyotes, but it won’t be easy–he’ll have to do it against District 30-6A’s stingiest defensive unit. La Joya is allowing just 283.1 yards per game this season, and they’ll be determined to shutdown Mission’s balanced offense as the Coyotes hunt for their second-straight playoff appearance.
Kickoff between the La Joya Coyotes and Mission Eagles is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium. For live game updates Friday night, follow The Progress Times on Facebook