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One City, Two High Schools

The Battle of Conway

The 2023-2024 high school football season is fixing up to be a good one. For the folks here at Progress Times, we’re excited to see what this season has in store for us and we are excited to have it start off with a bang. We kick off the season at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission as the Mission Veterans Memorial High School Patriots face up against the Mission High School Eagles.  This cross-town rivalry is a tradition that is over two decades old and we’re creeping up on the 22nd matchup of this series. The importance of this game has been going up exponentially over the years and this year is going to be no different. These two teams are looking to make waves in their own ways and a game like this before the season officially starts is exactly what they need to do that.

Progress Times photo by Luciano Guerra / Graphics by Lupe Chapa.

So, what makes this game so important?

This is a non-district game meaning the outcome of the game will not affect their record in district play. You can very much compare this game to a preseason game in the NFL. Since this game holds no weight to the regular season, it probably shouldn’t be of any importance, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the Main Event.

In one corner, weighing in at an insurmountable mass, representing the west side of Conway, the bigger brother in the City of Mission that looks to continue their dominance, residing from 1802 Cleo Dawson St, the ones to beat with a 13-8 record, fighting in maroon, give it up for the mighty Mission High School Eagles.

Progress Times photo by Luciano Guerra.

Progress Times photo by Luciano Guerra.

In the other corner, representing the east side of Conway, the younger sibling that never let strength in numbers bother them, the team that is clawing their way to the top, residing from 700 E 2 Mile Rd, fighting in blue with an 8-13 record, give it up for the Veterans Memorial High School Patriots.

Now let’s get ready to rumble.

This game is important for many reasons and for both teams, they gain more than just a win. The game of football has been massive for the city of Mission. It has provided an outlet for the students as well as embraced a source of pride for both high schools.

For the Mission Eagles, established for over 100 years, they are looking to continue their winning ways. In the earlier years, the Eagles were able to compile several wins against Veterans Memorial, beating them for the majority of the late 2000s and early 2010s. They have been slowly losing their lead as the Patriots caught up with a winning streak in the mid-2010s.

Head Coach Danny Longoria leads the Eagles and spoke to us more about this year’s game, “I gotta do my job on this side of Conway, last year a lot of things didn’t go our way but I really feel like we’re better prepared this year…we have some kids that are a lot more confident…Diego [Salinas] does a really good job at leading the troops.” We got the chance to speak to quarterback Diego Salinas about what this game does for him and his troops, “A win in the Battle of Conway would feel really good for me and my teammates after a tough loss last year…It would be good for us for the season.”

Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Cornerback Luis Vasquez was able to second this by saying, “It’s going to set the tone for the season…It’s a big rivalry and we’ve been putting in the work throughout the offseason, it’s a different team this year.” A newfound confidence is making a difference to this year’s team and this is proven by outside linebacker Emilio Alvarado, “They’re coming to our home turf, but we’re going to kick them out of here because this is ours.” There’s no doubt that what we’re seeing here is a team that took it personally when they lost last year’s matchup and they’re going to put everything they have on the field this year to get a win.

The Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots, established nearly 25 years ago, are looking to carve a place for themselves in the city of Mission. As the newer school in the city, it’s been a task and a half to get themselves in a position to start winning, but when the wins rained in, it poured. They were the better team for four years straight, but the big brother had different plans. After that winning streak they went on, the Eagles responded with a winning streak of their own. Who would’ve known that the bigger brother would take an early advantage, but Inevitably, the little brother grows up and it gets a little harder to beat.

The difference in years established between the schools is massive and what the Eagles have been able to accomplish over those years makes it hard for VMHS to catch up in legacy. Head Coach David Gilpin enthusiastically stated, “There’s a lot of history and tradition to overcome.” Gilpin spoke more about the game and the importance of it, “This is the biggest test of them all…As it is every year, both sides want to win…Putting the trophy in your fieldhouse on your campus matters…We want our student body to be proud of it, we want our staff and administration to have those bragging rights for our side of town.”

Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Gilpin has a team that could certainly get it done and he assures me that his quarterback, who will be playing in this game for the first time, is ready, “Braden [Luedeker] is calm, cool, and collected, he is very confident, he is a young man who will not be rattled, the game will never be too big for him, he will thrive in this situation.”

Quarterback Braden Luedeker followed this by saying, “Coach Gilpin has talked to me about this game, this game is the first game of the season and I’m looking forward to going out there and getting a win.” The confidence that runs through this team runs deep as running back Pablo Lopez said, “I wouldn’t say that we’re better than anybody cause at the end of the day anybody can win or lose, what matters is how you play.” There’s something different about this year’s team and Nickelback Frank Arellano guaranteed this by saying “Our mindset is a lot better; we’re locked in this year… I expect us and them to put up a good fight.” A good fight is exactly what we’re all expecting this year and every year moving forward.

The truth of the matter is that this game is massive. Anyone that is associated with the city of Mission knows that this game is very important, and they would be lying if they said anything different. This game showcases two sides of Mission: One side that is trying to keep up its long and rich history and one that’s trying to create its own.

This game provides these players with exposure to big-time crowds, pressure, and situations. The experience they gain from a game like this carries over into the rest of the season. The winner of this game gets bragging rights and bragging rights matter for this community. Bragging rights have brought this community together more than they could tear it apart. The district embraced this, providing these two schools a field to represent how much the game of football matters to them and the younger generation.

Though this might be a game with no implications, this yearly tradition has brought together more than just a community of people that embrace and cherish the game of football, it has brought together the population of Mission.

Progress Times photo by Luciano Guerra.

So, picture this: It’s Friday, August 25th and you just worked yet another long week so you’re in the mood for a calm and relaxing evening to yourself. Well, you’re in luck! For one night and one night only, the streets of Mission, Texas will be vacant, the stores will be empty, and if you’re extremely lucky, there won’t be a line at Chick-Fil-A, but that might be asking for too much.

Don’t go to Tom Landry Stadium if you don’t want to have the time of your life in one of the most beautiful stadiums in the Rio Grande Valley.

Don’t go to Tom Landry Stadium if you don’t want to witness some of the best high school football the state of Texas has to offer.

Don’t go to Tom Landry Stadium if you don’t want to see the city of Mission jam-packed in the stadium reaching levels of loudness that even the kid with the Ford Mustang in your neighborhood would consider loud, but not louder than their 5.0 rev-up every morning.

To some, this may be just another high school football game, but to many, nearly 50 coaches, 120 players, 2,500 students, 5,000 parents, and a community of about 90,000 people, this is the night that headlines the month of August, this night is better known as The Battle of Conway.

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