In search of their first district win of the season, the (0-1) Mission Eagles hosted the (1-0) Edinburg North Cougars at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium Friday evening. Early on it was looking good for head coach Danny Longoria and his boys in maroon and silver, but costly mistakes and turnovers proved to be too much for the Eagles to overcome as they fell to the Cougars by a score of 34-42.
The Cougars struck first as they took a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back Ulysses Melendez with 7:25 remaining in the first quarter. The Eagles made the score 7-7 when junior quarterback Diego Salinas ran the ball into the end zone on a keeper from two yards out with 6:09 remaining in the second quarter. Then with only 20 seconds remaining in the first half, Eagles’ junior running back Thomas Aparicio gave Mission its first lead of the game when he ran the ball into the end zone from 25 yards out to make the score 14-7 Eagles.
After the intermission, the Cougars drove the ball deep into Eagles’ territory and tied the game at 14-14 with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter on a fourth down run from the three-yard line. The Eagles struck back quickly as Aparicio scored his second touchdown of the game on a 62-yard run down the far sideline with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter to make the score 21-14 Mission. Less than two minutes later however, the Cougars tied the score at 21 each with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter on a 30-yard touchdown run.
The fourth quarter featured a total of five touchdowns scored. Unfortunately for the Mission faithful in attendance, three were by the Cougars. The Eagles’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns were scored by wide receivers Shelby Sital and Deion Gonzalez, both on passes from Salinas.
With Mission leading at halftime and again early in the fourth quarter, and with 404 yards of total offense, the Eagles certainly had the opportunity to win this game. However, they let this one get away from them. When asked how this happened, Eagles’ head coach Danny Longoria said, “Yeah, we had a couple of guys dinged up before the game and it came back to bite us in the rear end. Even at the end, our kids fought hard. I know it’s a tough loss for our kids but we’re going to bounce back from it.”
Junior running back Thomas Aparicio was one of the bright spots for the Eagles against the Cougars and it wasn’t only on offense.
“He did a great job and he had to step in there for us and play a little linebacker so it was a very admirable job on his part,” Longoria said. “A lot of our kids did a great job today. Our defense played hard but in the end, it was tough. We’ve just got to bounce back from it.”
As a result of the Eagles’ loss, there are now three 2-0 teams (PSJA, Edinburg, and Edinburg North) and three 0-2 teams (Mission, La Joya, and Economedes) in District 31-6A. Therefore Mission is still in the running for a playoff spot. Seeing as how Mission still has games against La Joya and Economedes coming up on their schedule, the Eagles still control their own playoff destiny.
“We’ve got three games left but we’re going to take one game at a time,” Longoria said. “We’ve got Economedes next week so we’ve got to take care of business and play well, play tough, and control the clock. Don’t kill ourselves. Eagles don’t beat Eagles, we’ve got to remember that.”
As for Aparicio, he shared his feelings about the tough loss when he said, “Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We tried limiting our mistakes…I mean last week we had a tough loss against Edinburg. They came in during the second quarter and they dominated so we tried to come into this game and dominate. We did that. We tried to fight battles and battles but the mistake on the punt ruined our momentum and kind of threw us off balance and from there the game drifted away from us and we could never come back.”
The fact that his grandmother, who had never watched him play before, was in the stands for this game made the loss even harder for Aparicio to take.
“It was very emotional,” Aparicio said. “I tried to have the best game I could’ve had. Sadly, I couldn’t give her the best present she could’ve had but I think she knows I did pretty well. I did try to do the best that I could and I hope that was the best present I could give her.”
With the loss the Eagles drop to 0-2 in district play and 2-5 overall. Up next for Mission is an away game against Economedes next Friday at 7 p.m.