The La Joya Coyotes and Mission Eagles meet tonight at La Joya ISD Stadium in the final game of the 2019 regular season. Mission already knows it is not their last game; La Joya comes in needing a win, and help, to ensure that it is not theirs.
However the scenarios play out this is always a big game.
The two have a history that goes back to when each were the only team in their respective school districts. The growth of each district and the subsequent additions of Mission Veterans, La Joya Palmview and La Joya Juarez-Lincoln may have given the two new rivals but even today; neither school wants to lose whenever they meet, regardless of the sport.
The Eagles came into the 2019 season with high expectations and are currently 7-2 on the year in a three way tie for first in District 30-6A with a 5-1 record.
Despite a 36-28 setback to PSJA last week Mission will enter the post season next week in the UIL 6A Division I bracket. Their seeding and opponent have yet to be determined. Part of the unknown is due to the fact that the district standings are so jumbled up.
PSJA and McAllen Memorial are, like Mission, also 5-1 in district and also guaranteed a playoff spot. The three teams could still be tied for first after tonight. If that happens, district officials will look at how each team fared against the others. The margin of victory, or positive points, when the three met may also be a factor to determine which bracket each goes to and their seeding in that bracket.
A few years ago the UIL decided to split the 6A football teams in Texas into two brackets at the start of the postseason. Which bracket a particular team goes into is based on the enrolled population of the four schools who have qualified for the post season. The two schools with the larger enrollments are placed in the 6A Div. I bracket and the other two go to the Div. II bracket.
Seeding within each bracket is based on which team finished the highest in the district standings. If the two schools are tied, the head-to-head winner will be given the higher seed.
That seeding is important too. Not only does the higher seed get to play a lower seeded team, they may get the opportunity to play at home too, provided they finished higher in the district standings than their opponent.
Mission lost their playoff opener on the road to Laredo United in 2018. A win tonight keeps them in the running for the top seed and the opportunity to be outright district champions or share it with one or both of the others.
Preparing for a game in the midst of all the different scenarios can be a challenge.
“We talk about that,” said Mission coach Koy Detmer. “Don’t pay attention’, is what we tell them.”
Detmer says he and his staff place their emphasis on what they have done since the season began which comes down to focusing on each week’s particular game and preparing for it. What does that mean for tonight’s game?
“We want to finish out the year on the right note with a win hopefully,” said Detmer.
La Joya is hoping for a win too, one that could put them back in the postseason for the first time since 2017.
The final playoff spot in the district is being contested between three teams. The McAllen Rowe Warriors are currently fourth in the district standings with a 3-3 record. They are followed by PSJA North and the Coyotes, each at 2-4.
The scenario here is a bit simpler. If Rowe wins tonight against McAllen Memorial they take the final spot. A loss puts the other two back into play, but only if they win.
PSJA North played last night against McAllen High and if the Raiders won, the Coyotes are playing for nothing more than pride tonight and the opportunity to send their seniors off with a last home game memory of beating the Eagles. A Raiders loss gives the Coyotes a shot.
To sum that up, La Joya’s only way in is to finish in a tie with Rowe. Last weeks’ big 49-42 victory by the Coyotes over the Warriors would be the tie breaker. A three way tie with Rowe and PSJA North would leave La Joya out due to positive points. The Coyotes lost to the Raiders by 17 points in week nine.
The fact that they have a shot is a testament to the efforts of all involved, according to Coyotes coach Reuben Farias.
After a 2-0 start the Coyotes lost three straight, two of them district games. A win over McAllen High in week seven was followed by two more losses and with only two games left it didn’t look good.
“I just told them to go out and play their best no matter who it was (we were playing)”, said Farias.
A three game losing streak by Rowe, including the Coyotes big win last week, has left the door open. It’s not open by much but it’s still open and if La Joya can pull it off, like they say, everyone starts the playoffs with a clean slate.
“I just want them to play to the best of their abilities and with effort,” said Farias. “That’s all I can ask and I can handle it if that’s what we do.”
If they do qualify, La Joya would be the District 30-6A second seed in the Div. I bracket of the 6A playoffs based on their fourth place district finish and the fact that they have the highest enrollment among all district teams. No information on a possible opponent was available as of press time.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is scheduled for 7:30 pm at La Joya ISD Stadium.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 8, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.