By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
WESLACO – There’s no question that losing the final two games of a season is not the best way to go into the playoffs.
But for the San Benito Greyhounds, perhaps the mini-losing skid provided a dose of motivation as they prepare for what they hope is a long postseason journey.
Forced to share the 32-6A crown with three others as district champions, the ’Hounds can right one of the wrongs of this year as they get a rematch against Weslaco East in a Class 6A Division-II bi-district game at Bobby Lackey Stadium on Friday night.
The winner of this opening-round playoff game will face either Laredo LBJ or La Joya Palmview in next week’s Area round.
Back in Week 2, the ’Hounds (6-4) turned the ball over in the red zone multiple times against the Wildcats in a 42-14 loss that was closer than the score indicated. Since then, San Benito won five of its next eight games and is a co-district champion.
East (8-2) was once again solid via a punishing ground game and extremely physical play in the trenches. The Wildcats lost just once before conceding the 31-6A title last week to crosstown rival Weslaco.
Coach Mike Burget’s Wildcats are no frills, no gimmicks and as good as advertised. They are going to come after teams via their bruising ground game.
That East attack, which averages 396 yards per game (367 rushing) is led by former La Villa stud Lupe Moron (1,799 yards, 25 touchdowns rushing) who has quickly established himself as one of the Valley’s premier playmakers. Quarterback Darren Rivas was second on the squad with 942 yards and 16 TDs.
Defensively, East has shown some kinks in the armor, giving up 318 yards per outing. Other than slowing down the Wildcats’ ground game that might be where the Greyhounds can make some headway against East.
San Benito’s offense has been high-octane for most of the season, but has been hit with injuries to leading wideout Mando Medrano and running back Gabriel Vasquez has been hobbled as well. Vasquez has since returned to the lineup. Losses to Harlingen South and Rivera prevented the ’Hounds from claiming sole possession of the district championship.
Vasquez went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark last week in the 42-35 loss to Brownsville Rivera, while quarterback Cristian Sierra has posted over 1,800 yards passing and 850 yards rushing. J.R. Gaitan, R.J. Atkinson, Victor Gaitan and Javier Ortiz have each figured into the equation at one time or another offensively.
For the defense, end Chris Padilla had arguably one of his best games when he terrorized the Rivera front line and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Pedro Coronado, Juan Salas and Richard Moreno have also been defensive standouts in recent weeks.
The Greyhounds are in the postseason for the first time since 2011, when they advanced to the Area round with a bi-district win over Edinburg. The ’Hounds then fell to Laredo United in Corpus Christi.