HARLINGEN — The Harlingen High Cardinals have a longstanding tradition of excellence. They’re the winningest program in Valley history, sitting at 710 victories and counting through 12 games this season.

Under head coach Manny Gomez, in his 16th year at the helm, the Cardinals have continued to establish themselves as the standard for Valley football, going 142-44-0 during his tenure and hoisting the district championship trophy 11 times.

Perhaps Gomez and the Cardinals’ biggest accomplishment during that span, however, is helping erase the “Valley Week” mentality, a reference to RGV teams being unable to beat San Antonio area schools in the postseason.

“I was a part of that whole ‘Valley Week’ stigma,” Gomez said after a 39-21 victory over San Antonio Warren on Friday. “I’ve been here for over 20 years. We did it in 2011 and got over that hump and won over Abilene then came back and won over these guys. We’ve put that behind us. Whoever is still saying Valley week, they ain’t watching what we’re doing. It is perception. We just have to change the optics of these kids, the vision. A lot of these kids don’t have no vision. That is what we’re trying to give them, some hope so they can compete in the game of life someday.”

The Cardinals victory over Warren in the Region IV-6A DII area round secured their sixth third round appearance under Gomez, the most of any Valley team since 2007.

It also marked the third time Gomez and his Cardinals have defeated a San Antonio team in the postseason to advance to round 3. They’ll take on Dripping Springs (11-1) during the Region IV-6A DII semifinals at 11 a.m. today at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“Our mentality is to show people that we aren’t a team to play with,” said Harlingen High running back Izaiah Bell after the team’s win over Warren. “We’re really going to come out here and not lay down for nobody. We want to come out here and dominate the way Coach (Gomez) showed us to. We’re going to work harder on this field than anybody, from our offensive line to our defensive line and all the captains.”

Harlingen marches into the third round with one of the Valley’s most dominant rushing attacks at their disposal, averaging 245.3 yards per game through 12 contests.

A veteran offensive line, which features four seniors and one junior, serve as the backbone to Harlingen’s ground-and-pound attack.

Harlingen High offensive tackle Roy Reyna. (Denise Cathey | Brownsville Herald)

“We’ve been together since freshman year,” Senior offensive tackle Roy Reyna said. “There is a lot of chemistry. We work and grind together every day. Those are my brothers. I trust that the other guys are going to get their gap. I don’t have to worry about helping him out. It works like that for the whole O-line, from double-teams to working up against the linebackers.”

Defensively, the Cardinals have benefited from the return of senior defensive linemen Pedro Silguero and Remzi Memik, both who missed time throughout the year due to injuries.

The Cardinals’ duo combined for 14 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks during Harlingen’s victory over San Antonio Warren.

Harlingen High defensive lineman Pedro Silguero. (Denise Cathey | Brownsville Herald)

They’ll be tasked with applying pressure to Dripping Springs senior quarterback Austin Novosad, a Baylor commit. Novosad lit up the San Antonio Brandeis defense for 323 passing yards and four touchdowns in limited action during the Region IV-6A DII area round.

Despite facing a tough opponent, which Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s Matt Stepp picked to win by 25, the Cardinals are ready to make some noise at the Alamodome on Friday.

“It feels really special to be practicing on Thanksgiving week” Reyna said. “As a team, we’ve come together all season and dominated. We’re just going to rely on the work we’ve put in as a team in the offseason and regular season. We’re just ready to get to work.”

“We don’t really look at the size or the types of player we have, or they have,” Senior center Christian Gonzalez added. “We’re going to go hard every time. It doesn’t matter who we play.”

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