Skip to content

November’s Contenders

Eagles, Patriots, and Diamondbacks prepare for their second season

As the regular season comes to a close, the playoffs’ shadow grows larger each day. Three teams remain in the hunt, with four of the seven Big 7 squads eliminated from playoff contention. The season’s final two weeks will go a long way toward determining the playoff fates and championship goals of Mission Eagles, Mission Veteran Patriots, and Pioneer Diamondbacks.

Mission Eagles (3-5, 1-2)

The Mission Eagles 2023-2024 season has been a roller coaster. The Eagles began the season 0-2 with road losses to the Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots (4-4) and the McAllen Bulldogs (6-2). In those games, the Mission Eagles offense outgained their opponents, but 4th quarter stagnancy and mistakes prevented them from winning. The Eagles appeared to excise their second half-demons in successive weeks against Juarez-Lincoln and Brownsville Pace.

Progress Times Photo by Joe Vela

The Eagles won the turnover battle and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 79-28. Dynamic junior quarter back-running back duo Diego Salinas and Thomas Aparico combined for 691 total yards and 9 touchdowns in those victories, while wide receivers Shelby Sital and Christian Kirk combined for over 200 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Spectacular defense from linebackers Jose Sanchez and Jeremy Aleman stifled the Huskies and Vikings. But 3 consecutive losses to the Los Fresnos Falcons (6-2), Edinburg Bobcats (3-5), and the Edinburg North Cougars (4-4) halted the Eagles’ momentum.

Last Friday night, the Eagles returned to their winning ways with a 59-7 win over the Edinburg Economedes Jaguars (0-8). If the Eagles win tonight against the PSJA Bears, the Valley’s most resurgent 6A squad, they will be assured a spot in the playoffs. A victory against PSJA tonight and a win over the La Joya Coyotes next week could put them in a tie with the Bears or Cougars for 3rd place if either team loses their final game. This would allow them to escape a potential bi-district matchup with the eventual 32 6A district champion.

However, even with two losses, the Eagles could make the playoffs because of their victories over District 31’s bottom two teams. So if all trends keep, The Eagles will be the fourth-place team in District 31 6A, placing them on a collision course with The San Benito Greyhounds (8-0) or Weslaco Panthers (8-0).

Mission Veterans Patriots (4-4, 2-1)

The Mission Veterans Patriots 2023-2024 season schedule might be the toughest in the Valley. The Patriot’s four losses have come against perennial 5 and 6A powers Harlingen (5-3), San Benito (8-0), McAllen Memorial (5-3), and district rival Sharyland Pioneer (7-1). In those losses, the Patriots struggled to stop the run and keep pace with their opponents’ offensive outputs despite touting one of the most talented offenses in the region.

Senior Braden Luedeker has established himself as one of the best statistical quarterbacks in recent Valley memory by accounting for over 3,000 total yards and 35 touchdowns. Receivers Vincent Abrego, Abel Lucio, and Obed Marin have accounted for 1,751 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns. In victory, their offensive explosiveness overwhelms their opponents. The Patriots’ four wins outscored their competition 155-57 with a 25-point average margin of victory. Those numbers were compiled against opponents with a combined 8 wins. The Patriots are 0-4 against teams with above .500 records. In each of those losses, the Patriots surrendered over 40 points despite the athleticism of their speedy front 7.

With two games remaining against two of the top 3 teams in District 16, the PSJA Memorial (7-1) Wolverines and Roma Gladiators (8-0), the Patriots could solidify their 2nd place standing with victories against the pair. But two losses would have them facing potential District 15 champions, Corpus Christi Flour Bluff (5-2) or Gregory Portland (7-1) in the bi-district round.

Sharyland Pioneer (7-2, 2-1)

The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks have been one of the best teams in South Texas through 8 weeks of the 2023-2024 regular season. They boast a compliment of offensive skill position players that rival any team.

Quarterback Julian Valdez and Leo Espinoza have dominated rival competition on their way to becoming the top receiver-quarterback duo in the Valley. Valdez’s 29 passing touchdowns and Espinoza’s 15 receiving touchdowns have powered the Diamondbacks to a near-perfect record, with their only loss coming on the road against the undefeated Roma Gladiators, district 16 5A leaders and arguably the biggest surprise team of the year.

The Diamondbacks have compiled wins against quality opponents like the Laredo Alexander Bulldogs (5-3) and the Edinburg North Cougars (4-4). The McAllen Nikki Rowe Warriors (4-4) are all in the top 4 of their respective districts. A perfect record against PSJA Southwest (1-7), Rio Grande City (3-5), Mission Veterans (4-4), and Valley View (2-6) have the Diamondbacks in the hunt for a District Championship despite their earlier loss to Roma.

Two Diamondback wins against rival Sharyland High and third place PSJA Memorial would seal a second place finish for the Diamondbacks, and a Roma loss would split the District 16 5A championship between the two squads.

Leave a Comment