The Mission Veterans Patriots knew they were in for a fight heading into the regional semi-finals against Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial, and after four quarters of play inside the Alamodome, the team from the Rio Grande Valley was the last one standing.
The Patriots walked away with a 62-55 win over C.C. Vets to become the first Valley team to win in the Alamodome since Edinburg North in 2012, but that was a first round matchup. Mission Veterans’ win made program history and moved the Patriots on to the Regional Championship, a place they thought they’d be since February.
“It’s amazing, balling with the guys since day one, ever since we were small,” said linebacker Joey Garcia. “We always talked about this moment, winning in the Alamodome when we were kids and now it came true. We’re all happy, it means so much, giving us one more week, it’s awesome.”
The Patriots third round shootout saw quarterback Landry Gilpin put up 704 total yards with seven touchdown passes. Running back Danny Cantu scored one touchdown on the ground, while receivers Leo Cantu, Mikey Garcia, John Aguilar and Ralph Ochoa each hauled in touchdown passes, with Aguilar, Garcia and AJ Gonzaque each going for 100+ receiving yards.
Now, Mission Veterans is the last Valley team standing and will play on one more week with the chance to extend their 12-game winning streak.
Landry Gilpin and the Patriots were excited to break the “Alamodome curse” last weekend and are ready to take the Alamodome field once again for their 4th round matchup at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
“It’s awesome being able to come back, having a morning game,” Gilpin said. “We’re a morning practice team, so we’re used to being up and moving around early. We put aside the Alamodome curse and we’re good man. I’m happy we got to show people not to believe in stuff like that. We’re not done yet, we expected to be here. Now it’s time for the next challenge.”
The next challenge for the Mission Veterans Patriots? The San Antonio Wagner Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds (12-1, 8-0) are coming off a 49-14 win over Flour Bluff in the third round where they ran for 478 total yards. Wagner’s triple-option offense carries a powerful ground game with two 1,000-plus yard rushers in quarterback Tobias Weaver and running back LJ Butler. Karlton Black has also run for 909 yards of his own, giving Wagner over 5,000 rushing yards as a team on the year.
Tasked with containing the Thunderbird offense is a Mission Veterans defense that Coach Gilpin feels is peaking at the right time.
The Patriot defense has four defenders ranked inside the top 25 in tackles in 5A-DI in Joey Garcia (139), Gus Garza (134), Elias Delgado (114) and Jesse Gonzalez (111), and they’ll be tasked with stopping the run. Last week when the Patriots needed their defense to make a play, linebacker Jazz Vallejo came through with a pick-six and gave his team the space they needed to put the game away. The defense feels they can come up with big plays when needed and they’ll need a few when they face the Thunderbirds on Saturday morning.
“We’re going to try to get another dub,” Garcia said. “We’re going to have a tough one against San Antonio Wagner, they’re a good ball club, so we got to come out and play hard.”
Head Coach David Gilpin has been in his team’s ear about five gold balls since day one and he has a team full of believers. Coach Gilpin often says, if they’re not laughing at you, you didn’t set your goals high enough.
“We set our goal for five gold balls, we said we’ll be a Regional Champ,” said Coach Gilpin. “We know what Wagner has, we know how good they are, we understand all that, but we will be on the field with them Saturday morning and the one thing I promise you we’re going to play them, we may get beat 100-0, but we will play them with the heart of a champion.”
The Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots will have their shot at a 5th gold ball as they are set to take on San Antonio Wagner in the 5A-DI Region IV Championship at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Alamodome.
For live game updates, follow The Progress Times on Facebook @ProgressTimes.