At Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium Friday evening it was the Battle of the Birds as the Los Fresnos Falcons and the Mission Eagles battled it out in both teams’ final non-district game of the 2023 season. The Falcons struck first as they scored from 38 yards out on their very first play from scrimmage to make the score 7-0 in the Falcons favor. The Eagles struck back at the 5:52 mark in the first quarter on a 27 yard field goal by Angel Guajardo to make the score 7-3 Falcons.
Mission took a 10-7 lead with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter on a 39 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Diego Salinas to junior wide receiver Christopher Kirk. The Falcons wasted no time in regaining their lead and then adding to it as they punched the ball into the end zone from three yards out twice; the first time with 7:22 remaining and then with :05 remaining in the second quarter. That made the score 21-10 in favor of the Falcons at the half.
The third quarter continued the same way the first half ended as the Falcons scored their fourth touchdown of the game on a 2 yard run to increase their lead to 27-10. The Eagles’ faithful finally had something to cheer about at the 5:20 mark of the third quarter when Salinas and junior running back Thomas Aparicio connected on a 60 yard touchdown pass to make the score 27-17 Falcons. The Falcons responded in kind however as they increased their lead to 34-17 with a 37 yard touchdown pass with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Aparicio scored his second touchdown of the game on a 78 yard run down the sideline and junior Alexis Alvarado returned a kickoff 90 yards for the Eagles, but both scores were too little too late as the Falcons scored three touchdowns of their own to make the final score 55-30 in favor of the Falcons.
After the game, Eagles’ head coach Daniel Longoria put a positive spin on his team’s performance. “For one, there’s no quit in our kids. Taking the kickoff return there when we’re down three scores…you know, stay in the fight…we did good things defensively and offensively. I think the fact that we had two critical errors on special teams did not help us…those are things that we need to clean up. We’re a good football team we just got to start fixing the mistakes that prevent us from being an even better team.”
Coming off a very disappointing 2022 season in which the Eagles went 2-8 and missed out the playoffs, Longoria shared what expectations he has for this year’s squad. “Like I told the kids right now, what I expect number one, contend for a district title. Number two, ensure we qualify for the playoffs and play tough. Statistically, I just found out today we were leading the district in offense and number two in defense. So I should say something to our kids that we’re taking a step in the right direction. At the same time, we’ve just need to learn how to play four quarters of mistake free football.”
As a free safety, junior Alexis Alvarado does not get too many opportunities to carry the football. However, he is also a kick returner for the Eagles and against the Falcons Alvarado made the most of the opportunity he was given in the fourth quarter when he returned a Los Fresnos kickoff for the Eagles’ final touchdown of the game.
When asked how long his return was and to describe it, Alvarado said, “It was like 90 yards. I saw the opening (up the middle) and I just took off.” Was it his first kickoff return for a touchdown? “Nah, I ran one back during the Vets game in Week One.” How long was that runback? “I think that one was about 92 (yards).”
Against the Falcons, Eagles’ junior quarterback Diego Salinas completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 160 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 127.1. He also carried the ball nine times for 65 yards. On the season, Salinas has completed 59 of his 106 pass attempts for 721 yards and six touchdowns.
When asked to describe how the offense played against the Falcons, Salinas said, “It didn’t go as planned but we have a bye this week so we’re going to try to fix stuff that we messed up here and go after district.”
As for what he is expecting from the offense from here on out, Salinas said, “To go 110% in practice and keep grinding and working hard.”
With the loss against the Falcons, the Eagles fall to 2-3 on the season as they prepare to take on the Edinburg Bobcats in their District 31-6A opener in two weeks.