Weeks before the teams of District 30-6A began district play Mission coach Koy Detmer described what he expected once the eight teams began facing off.
“Anybody will tell you, in our district, every week is a battle. It’s a challenge. There are no games where you can go in like OK we’re going to take care of business on this one. They are all tough games and if you’re not right or nicked up you can go out and get beat in any one of them. You have to play well every week.”
Detmer’s Eagles currently lead the district with a 4-0 record. They hold a slim one game lead over three other teams entering play this week. McAllen Rowe, tonight’s opponent, is 3-1 along with McAllen Memorial and PSJA.
No other teams in the district have more than one win.
Still, what Detmer predicted has somewhat played out and no team is a better example of that than his own.
Their district opener was a thriller. Trailing McAllen Memorial by four the Eagles pulled out a 28-25 victory when quarterback Jeremy Duran connected with Rey Garcia on a 12 yard touchdown pass with just seconds left in the game.
A week later the Eagles found themselves in another tight one. A late touchdown by McAllen High forced overtime where the Eagles won it 13-10 on a 35 yard field goal from Rene Rodriguez.
The Eagles third district game was closer still. After a high scoring first half the Eagles held on for a 31-30 win over La Joya Juarez-Lincoln.
Mission finally got a little breathing room last week when they defeated PSJA North 30-13. That result, along with the loss by Rowe to PSJA, has put the Eagles alone atop the district standings. A win tonight clinches a playoff spot for the second straight year.
Detmer said that while his team’s performances have not always been sharp and clean he is pleased with how his players have handled the adverse situations that have arisen over the course of those early district ball games. The Eagles trailed at one point in all of their first three district contests. They entered the fourth quarter of their game against PSJA North last week with only a three point lead.
Detmer added how the team has stayed on track by taking things one week at a time and not looking ahead.
They certainly don’t want to look past the Warriors. Rowe started 2019 with six straight wins and a 3-0 district mark with wins over McAllen, Juarez-Lincoln and PSJA North before losing their first contest of the year last week. A win tonight could also clinch a playoff spot for the Warriors.
A similar situation played out when the two teams met last year. Each came in with 2-2 district records, each looking for a win and an inside track to the playoffs.
The Eagles won that game 38-7 and two more after that to finish with a 5-2 mark that was good for a second place district finish, qualifying for the postseason for the first time in five years. After the loss, Rowe split their last two district contests to finish 3-4, out of the playoff picture.
The Warriors attack is based on balance, having amassed similar amounts of yardage both rushing and passing on the year. Led by senior quarterback Jacob Ortiz, Rowe is currently ranked fourth in the district in total offense, averaging almost 365 yards a game. Ortiz comes in ranked third in passing yards among district quarterbacks with over 1,300 passing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Joey Partita is the team’s leading rusher with a little over 300 yards and four touchdowns. He also has two touchdowns on 20 receptions.
Alex Anzaldua leads the team in receptions with 28, while Derek Luna has the most yards gained with 298. Gustavo Cruz has five touchdown receptions on the year.
“They are an outstanding team. They have a lot of quality athletes with speed,” said Detmer. “We’re going to have to be good tackling in space while at the same time being able to handle their front.”
The Warriors defense is currently ranked seventh in the eight team district, giving up around 385 yards per game.
Mission has some of the same attributes as Rowe. Duran, a sophomore, is currently the district’s second leading passer with almost 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Eagles, like Rowe, have a good ground game too, having rushed for over 1000 yards as a team. Mission comes into tonight with the district’s third ranked offense.
That running game is led by Andrew Maldonado, who, like Partita for the Warriors, is also a receiving option for Duran. Steve Villarreal and Garcia are two other receivers that Duran looks for.
The Eagles defense is ranked first in the district and has had a big hand in those close district wins, keeping McHi off the scoreboard in overtime and doing the same to Juarez-Lincoln for the entire second half.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm tonight at Tom Landry Stadium.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 25, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.