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Diamondbacks out to remain undefeated, Patriots out to bounce back

Week 3 of Valley football is here, and it couldn’t have come soon enough after last week’s buzzsaw. Six of the seven Big 7 football teams suffered defeats with Sharyland Pioneer being the standalone victor. As the season progresses identities are forming, reputations are being established, and legacies are being cemented. Week 3 success is crucial to long-term success, especially with district games approaching soon.

Three Big 7 football teams played last night. The La Joya Coyotes (0-1) traveled to play the Rio Grande City Rattlers (0-2), The Sharyland Rattlers (1-1) faced the McAllen Nikki Rowe Warriors (1-1) at Richard Thompson Stadium in Mission, and The La Joya Palmview Lobos (1-1) traveled to Brownsville Veterans Memorial Stadium to play the Brownsville Lopez Lobos (1-1).

Four teams are in action tonight with two, The Mission High Eagles (1-1) and The La Joya Juarez-Lincoln Huskies (0-2), competing against each other at LJISD Pack Stadium in La Joya. For a preview of that game check out our Game of The Week story in this same issue. Post-game information from last night’s games was not available at the time of press. Here is our preview for the two remaining games being played tonight involving Big 7 teams.

Edinburg North (1-1) at Sharyland Pioneer (2-0)
The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks will host the Edinburg North Cougars tonight at Richard S. Thompson Stadium in Mission. Last year’s matchup was a shootout that ended in a 42-39 Cougar victory. In this year’s matchup, the Diamondbacks are looking to even the score and secure a 3-0 record ahead of their Week 4 matchup against Valley View (1-1).

#12 Diego Carrizales seals the first half with a TD from Quarterback Julian Valdez. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Edinburg North was an 8-3 playoff team last year, but the Diamondbacks are not shying away from the competition. “They’re a quality ball club…and they’re the [defending] district champion in their division. We like to schedule tough games like these to prepare us for our district season,” said Head Coach Eddie Galindo when asked his thoughts on the Cougars.

The Pioneer defense will be tasked with limiting a potent offensive attack to win. When asked what role the defense needs to play for Pioneer to win, senior captain Mark Perales stated, “Stopping the run, reading the quarterback, trusting your teammate, and having each other’s backs” would be the key. Star defensive back Andrew Rivera (junior) understands that his role and that of his unit, isn’t isolated. “Having each other’s back is a key point for our defense, “blue collar tough,” is what Coach Galindo says all the time. “We just have to work and fight for each other,” said Rivera.

If the defense holds up its end of the bargain the offense should have no problems following suit. So far, the Diamondbacks have scored 76 combined points in their first two games, rushed for an average of over 100 yards per game, and quarterback Julian Valdez’s (senior) season completion percentage is over 80%. “We all need to come out and do our jobs so we can win… we have guys, hopefully, we go out and make plays,” said Julian Alvarez when asked what it would take for victory against the Cougars. Expect good things to happen if the Pioneer front seven plays soundly. And if the Diamondback offense gets the ball to playmakers like seniors Leo Espinosa Jr, Antonio Carrizales, and junior Matthew Maldonaldo in space, they should have a chance to avenge last year’s loss.

Harlingen High (2-0) at Mission Veterans (1-1)
The Mission Veterans Patriots have arguably the toughest matchup of week 3 as they host the most decorated Rio Grande Valley football program of the last twenty years at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium tonight. Last year’s game against the Harlingen Cardinals was a nightmarish 56-0 defeat. “Harlingen destroyed us last year. We did not perform well. So, we know the challenge that’s in front of us. And it’s been a good week. Our mindset is where it needs to be…We just need to do a better job of representing ourselves, and I expect that we will,” said Coach Gilpin when reflecting on tonight’s game against the Cardinals.

Mission Veterans’ Jose Garcia #28 moving the offensive line forward during last Friday’s game against McAllen Memorial Mustangs. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

Defenders like senior Raul Valdez are eager for a second shot vs. the Cardinals. “We got our energy up. We knew we had a tough opponent, so we had to step it up a notch…We’re coming back like it’s a revenge game. We’re taking it one week at a time and we’re just focused on Harlingen right now,” said Valdez when asked about the rematch. Expect the entire defense to play fast and together with leadership from Valdez and others like junior linebackers Aiden Uribe and Chris Garza.

To bounce back from last week’s final second loss to McAllen Memorial and excise the disappointment of last year’s Harlingen game, the Patriots will need to dig deep. Senior quarterback Braden Luedeker knows this all too well, “We can do whatever needs to be done to get a win… Every week you gameplan to win, you don’t prepare to lose. Offensively, we need to connect and gel together a little bit more before district. We’re pretty tight, but the tighter you can get the better. It’s a lot easier to win with brothers than with teammates.”

Mission Veterans’ Vincent Abrego #4 evading Mustang defense during last Friday’s game against McAllen Memorial Mustangs. Progress Times photo by Joe Vela.

If the Patriots want this game to be competitive Luedeker and the offense will need to be accurate and consistent. Expect The Patriots offensive line to play a significant role in protecting Luedeker against an aggressive Harlingen front seven so he can distribute the ball to playmakers like Obed Marin (senior), one of the best wide receivers in the Rio Grande Valley. Marin’s calm disposition and strong character are mirrored throughout the Veterans program, from head coach to players. Come tonight, their collective force of character might be the deciding factor.

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