By STEVEN RAY HERNANDEZ
I wonder what the satellite image of Texas looks like from outer space on any given Friday night during football season. I’d have to imagine the illumination beaming from down under would be too bright to even capture a vivid image.
Well, whatever the case, I know one thing is certain; the image up close on the football field is a sight like no other, especially here in the Rio Grande Valley.
This year, like every other year here in the Valley, rows and rows of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandmas, etc., can be seen in stadiums throughout Texas supporting their local teenagers as they engage in battle week after week in hopes of capturing one of those pivotal playoff spots at the end of the season. Because for most of them, it will be the last time they ever get to play the beloved game on such a high-level of competition.
Every year, teams from the Valley seem to continue to grow into powerhouses, giving us local football enthusiasts hopes of maybe one day seeing a repeat of the famous “Miracle at Donna.”
As many in the RGV know, the 1961 Donna Redskins were (and are) the only team from the Valley to ever capture a State Championship win, a feat they accomplished as underdogs with nail-biting wins week after week. The Redskins started strong with a 32-0 defeat in the first round against Refugio, and then eventually went on to beat Devine (12-7), Sweeney (32-14), and Brady (16-14), before pulling off a comeback 28-21 victory over Quanah in the State Championship game. The history-making day set the mark for teams all across the Valley, a mark no team has reached in over 50 years.
So this brings us to today, and the start of the 2015 football season; a season that already has Valley football gurus predicting overwhelming success.
In San Benito, 2nd year head coach Dan Gomez will look to lead the Greyhounds to a return trip to the playoffs after they landed a three-way share of the district title last year.
Meanwhile, the Harlingen Cardinals will try to continue their legacy as the most successful team in the Rio Grande Valley as former ‘Card standout Manny Gomez leads the flock as head coach. The Cardinals are hoping to have a repeat season of 2011, where they went undefeated before falling to San Antonio Madison in the state quarterfinals, the farthest any Valley team had reached since that infamous Donna squad back in ’61.
The Port Isabel Tarpons meanwhile look to be stronger than last year as they return several key players at key positions. Rio Hondo also looks strong, but then again, when you make the playoffs 7 out of the last 8 years, you’re probably always going to look and be strong.
The Los Fresnos Falcons will look to repeat a stellar season from last year where they finished 9-4 and went several rounds into the playoffs. Running back Isaac Moreno should play a pivotal role in doing so, however, the loss of their stand-out quarterback Pierce Ruiz might hurt them if someone doesn’t step up to the plate.
In the upper Valley, teams to keep an eye on are McAllen Memorial, Donna, Edcouch Elsa, McHi, PSJA, and Mission. Good luck to all the teams and let’s bring the Rio Grande Valley it’s second ever state championship victory!