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Different Paths, Same Mission

Diamondbacks and Eagles position themselves for playoffs

After 10 grueling weeks, the 23-24 RGV football regular season is closing. Each Big 7 team’s regular-season finale means something different. It might be a rejuvenation shot for those seeking redemption, a swan song for those looking to make a statement or a life raft for those seeking escape. Nothing exemplifies this better than the stark contrast between the journeys of The Mission Eagles and Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks.

Progress Times photo by Mario Magallon

The Mission Eagles (3-6, 1-3) suffered a disappointing 55-14 defeat to the District 31 6A leader PSJA Bears (6-3, 5-0) last Friday night at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium in Mission. The Eagles’ homecoming hopes to secure a playoff bid and upset the presumptive district champion was not to be. Turnovers, defensive mistakes, and sluggish offense sunk the Eagles, whose playoff hopes now hinge on one game. The Eagles traveled to La Joya last night to face the winless Coyotes. If the Eagles won, they’re guaranteed a playoff spot and date with The Weslaco Panthers (9-0) or San Benito Greyhounds (9-0). The outcome of last night’s game was not available at the time of printing.

The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks (8-1, 3-1) obliterated crosstown rival the Sharyland Rattlers last Friday night. The Diamondbacks put forth their best defensive effort of the season en-route to a 42-7 victory. Sophomore running back Dylan Tijerina exploded for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns on almost 9 yards a carry. Quarterback Julian Valdez gained an impressive 197 total yards with 2 rushing touchdowns and 1 passing touchdown to all-world receiver Leo Espinoza Jr, the RGV’s best wide receiver. Tonight, the Diamondbacks will face off against PSJA Memorial Wolverines (7-2,2-2) at Richard S. Thompson Stadium in Mission for a chance to split the District 16 5A-2 championship, should Mission Veterans (5,4 3-1) defeat the district-leading Roma Gladiators (9-0,4-0).

Progress Times photo by Mario Magallon

The Wolverines are currently on a two game-losing streak after starting the season 7-0. A devastating overtime loss to the Gladiators in week 9 was followed by a complete demolition from the Patriots the following week at home 49-28. The Diamondbacks and Wolverines records versus common opponents are 4-1 and 2-2, respectively. Both teams have lost to Roma, but the Diamondbacks defeated the Patriots 56-36 in week 7.

Alvarez, Tijerina, and Espinoza will need to continue their dominance vs the Wolverines for a chance at a district championship and a favorable playoff seed.

The Pioneer defense, led by star athlete Andrew Rivera, aggressive linebacker Marcus Rauda, and stout defensive ends Mark Perales and Noe Correa will need to replicate their performances from a week ago against a Wolverine offense averaging 338 rushing yards a game. If the Diamondbacks can score and make stops early in the game, forcing The Wolverines to throw the ball like last week, they should have no problem registering their ninth win of the season in front of the Diamondbacks’ faithful.

“We just take it one week at a time. We don’t look past the week we’re in. We stay focused, hungry, and take care of business,” said Diamondbacks’ head Coach Eddie Galindo when asked about his team’s playoff scenarios.

The Diamondbacks are 2-0 against the Wolverines all-time. Their most recent win came last year by a score of 42-21. In 2021, the final score was much closer as the Diamondbacks defeated the Wolverines by a score of 27-15.

With so much riding on tonight’s game, Galindo and his boys are not going to concern themselves with the final score tonight. As long as they win, they won’t care if they win by one point or by 30. Because not only will a win open the door for a possible district co-championship, but it will also give the Diamondbacks much needed momentum as they head into the UIL state playoffs next week.

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