By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
It doesn’t get any easier for the San Benito Greyhounds this week.
With last week’s one-point disappointment at Harlingen South still fresh, the ’Hounds have to buckle up and finish the season strong in order to earn their coveted prize.
The good news is San Benito controls its own destiny. Beat Brownsville Rivera and grab the program’s first outright district championship in a decade as well secure a likely playoff matchup against PSJA North. Lose, split the title who knows how many ways and go into the playoffs reeling.
Indeed, Friday’s game at Bobby Morrow Stadium is ginormous for both teams and will have the eyes of the Valley on it. It should be a dandy.
Veteran coach Tom Chavez’s Raiders (4-5, 4-2 district) come in red hot, winners of four straight games. They are in must-win mode as they can clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in 32-6A with a win as well as a share of the district title. The Raiders are a dangerous squad that’s much better than their record indicates.
Quarterback Danny Elizondo (1,480 yards, 14 TDs in 9 games) has been tremendous all season, and his favorite target has been the explosive Edward Rubio (36-524 yards, 9 TDS) along with Sammy Orive (29-516, 4 TDs). The connections have been lethal for the Raiders, as both combined for 65 receptions, more than 1,000 yards as well as 13 touchdowns on the year.
The Raiders aren’t all offense though, far from it, actually. Rivera’s defense has been superb and allows 232 yards per game on average. They are the no. 1 defense in 32-6A and have been especially stingy against the run, allowing a district-low 1,264 yards rushing.
Playing with their season on the line, the Raiders can’t be taken lightly.
But if any team can match firepower, it’s San Benito, which averages 473 yards per game offensively, good for the top offense in the district. Throw in a little motivation from last week and the ’Hounds are a lot less likely to come out flat at home.
The ’Hounds boast plenty of stars in quarterback Cristian Sierra (1,709 yards passing, 742 rushing, 18 total TDs) and a running game featuring Gabriel Vasquez (996 yards, 13 total TDs) along with emerging receivers in R.J. Atkinson (25 catches, 398 yards, 3 TDs), Javier Ortiz (20-262) and Victor Gaitan (16-253, TD).
Injuries have hit San Benito as of late, as wideout Mando Medrano was out as of last week and Vasquez was hobbled some at Harlingen South.
Defensively, San Benito is ranked fifth at a 328 yard clip, but the good news is the ’Hounds are the best team in the league against the pass, allowing just 62 yards through the air each week on average.
Playing for the golden ball will be motivation enough for the Greyhounds. Though technically, a share of the title has been clinched, going for the outright prize is enough of a carrot in itself.