By Louie Vera
Don’t underestimate Mission Veterans Memorial if you’re the home team and reigning district champion.
For the second consecutive season the Patriots have gone on the road to knock out the champs, this time eliminating Brownsville Veterans Memorial 35-14 Friday night at Sams Memorial Stadium.
Patriots Head Coach Dave Gilpin didn’t shy away from airing it out and with text-book tackling it was an all-around performance for his coaching staff and players.
“Two years in a row we’ve had to go to the district champs house and we knew we had a challenge against the Chargers,” he said. “We’ve struggled defensively this year but our coaching staff and kids did an outstanding job tonight. We knew if we tackled tonight we win this football game. We came out in the second half and put the hammer down until the clocks hit zero.”
This is also the third consecutive bi-district victory for the Patriots and will go on to host playoff nemesis Corpus Christi Flour Bluff for the area championship with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. at Landry Stadium.
These two will clash for the fifth time in seven seasons.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge again (versus Flour Bluff),” Gilpin said. “But tonight these kids are champions and I’m proud of my bunch.”
The game was an all-out grind tied up 7-7 just before ostensibly the biggest momentum shift with just a few minutes left in the half.
Facing a 3rd down and 34 Patriots quarterback Diego Hernandez hit Buda Gonzalez in stride for a 52-yard touchdown play to give Mission a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Brownsville Veterans Memorial fumbled on the opening possession of the second half and Mission made them pay with a 20-yard TD reception from Roman De Leon.
The Patriots would go on to score on their first three possessions of the second half and shut down a highly powerful Chargers offense who were fresh off their first district title in school history.
“The first half was a real grind,” Chargers coach David Cantu said. “They came up with a big play on 3rd and long just before the half that really changed the momentum. Once you get into the playoffs it gets difficult to overcome mistakes especially against a good football team.”
Asked about his thoughts on the season Cantu said that the program will always have high goals and continue helping players grow on and off the field.
“It’s really been a great season,” he said. “First team in school history to win a district title which is awesome. Our senior class and team had a great unity and family atmosphere. We are going to continue to develop great young men that are going to be great citizens fathers for the future of our community.”