From the football field to the volleyball court, 2018 was successful year for many Big 7 programs and athletes.
With both seasons officially over, a number of student-athletes from La Joya, Mission and Sharyland ISD have been honored with postseason awards for their outstanding accomplishments this past year.
The Mission Veterans Lady Patriots finished a fourth consecutive season unbeaten in 31-5A play and reached the third round of the postseason, finishing with a record of 39-5 and 14-0 District Champions.
Senior outside hitter Jacqueline Howell was named to the VYPE All-State 5A First Team, All-Area First Team and even earned Max Preps/AVCA All-State Player of the Week honors for her play during the week of Oct. 1 – 7, where she produced 48 kills, 31 digs, 16 receptions, three aces and one block in six games. On the season, Howell finished with 728 Kills, 594 Digs, 413 Receptions 56 Blocks and 44 Aces.
Two more Lady Patriots garnered All-Area and All-State recognition as middle blocker Kassandra Lerma earned a spot on the All-Area Second Team, while senior setter Valerie De La Fuente was named a VYPE All-State 5A Honorable Mention. Lerma, a junior, had her strongest season yet as she racked up 380 Kills, 474 Digs, 151 Blocks and 79 Aces. In her final season, De La Fuente finished with 1,168 Assists 47 Aces, 158 Digs to average 9.9 assists per set.
Pioneer freshman Natalie Reyes was named The Monitor’s All-Area Newcomer of the Year for a phenomenal first year for the Lady Diamondbacks. Described as Pioneer’s quarterback in the court, Reyes recorded 419 assists in just 20 sets for a 21.0 per set average. Reyes helped lead the Lady Diamondbacks to a 10-4 district record as she also had 23 Aces and was only whistled for five errors on 1,274 chances.
Landry Gilpin’s postseason has been a whirlwind of recognition from all across the state. The 2018 Mr. Texas Football was recently named the All-Area Player of the Year for his work on the football field as the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots went on a historic playoff run to the fourth round that captivated the entire Valley.
Landry Gilpin put up video game numbers as the senior finished with 4,544 passing yards, 50 passing touchdowns, 2,112 rushing yards, 32 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions on 476 attempts. The 5A All-State Offensive Player of the Year averaged 475 total yards per game.
Head Coach of the Patriots, David Gilpin, was named to the All-Area Coach of the Year as he led the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots to the Division 5A DI Region IV Championship game against San Antonio Wagner, just the third RGV team to advance to the fourth round since 1990.
Mission Veterans finished 13-1 on the year and 9-0 in 16-5A DI play, the first time the Patriots have won an outright district championship.
The Big 7 had six players named to the All-Area First Team, four coming on the offensive side of the ball.
La Joya’s Eddie Villarreal was named the First Team running back, as well as an All-State 6A Honorable Mention as the Coyotes’ workhorse carried the ball 252 times for 1,623 yards, averaging a smooth 6.4 yards per rush with 22 touchdowns.
Sharyland had two seniors earn spots on the All-Area First Team as offensive lineman Josh Williams and linebacker Javo Lopez were steady forces all year for the Rattlers. Williams helped clear the way for a balanced Sharyland offense, while the middle linebacker Lopez led the team with 151 total tackles and filled the stat sheet in nearly every category with three sacks, four tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked kick.
Mission Veterans led the way with three players named to the All-Area First Team as wide receiver AJ Gonzaque, an All-State Second Team player, center Erik Espinoza and linebacker Joey Garcia. Gonzaque, a sophomore receiver, hauled in 75 receptions for 1,493 yards and 15 touchdowns to average 106.6 yards per game. Espinoza was the center for the Valley’s most dangerous offense, and Garcia finished with 152 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks and one fumble recovery.
Mission High’s Jeremy Duran was named to the All-Area Second Team Offense as the freshman stepped in midway through the season for injured starter Damian Gomez to help lead the Eagles to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Duran threw for 1,465 yards while completing 67% of his passes for 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his first year of varsity ball.
Palmview senior running back Mario Chapa was the driving force behind Palmview’s 6-3 finish in district play, putting the Lobos back in the playoffs after a down season and earning a spot on the All-Area Second Team Offense Chapa recorded 1,345 yards on the ground during the regular season and found the end zone 16 times as he helped lead Palmview’s third-ranked offense in 16-5A DI.
Mission Veterans receiver Leo Cantu also earned a spot on the All-Area Second Team as the senior had 40 receptions for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns to average 21.3 yards per catch.
Juarez-Lincoln senior defensive end Xavier Monreal wreaked havoc all year on opposing tackles to earn a spot on the All-Area Second Team Defense, while La Joya punter Isaac Ochoa, an All-State Honorable Mention, punted 22 times for 787 yards, averaging 33.8 yards per kick with a long of 52 and half his punts pinning opponents inside their own 20, to earn his spot on the Second Team.
Five other Big 7 athletes were named All-Area Honorable Mentions for their play in 2018. Despite splitting time at quarterback for more than half the season, Pioneer’s Jacob Rosales managed to throw for 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 773 and 12 scores on the ground.
La Joya’s Irvin Zamora was second on the Coyotes in tackles with 57, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Mission Veterans’ Adrian Meza and Palmview’s Juan Rivas were named All-Area Honorable Mentions as offensive linemen for their play up front, while Juarez-Lincoln playmaker Albert Martinez was named an Honorable Mention as wide receiver.