HARLINGEN — Ramon Zuniga wanted to play for Brownsville Lopez for as long as he can remember. He recalls going to Lobos games when he was younger, waiting for his moment to step onto the field.

Zuniga’s moment arrived last season, setting the tone for what could be an illustrious career following a 14-goal freshman campaign.

The Lobos’ striker took it to another level this season, scoring a program-record 39 goals and leading the Lobos to the regional tournament for the first time in six years.

Zuniga is The Brownsville Herald/Valley Morning Star’s 2023 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

“It means a lot to me to win this award,” Zuniga said. “Going into this season, I worked so hard for my team and for us to get far. I didn’t have any expectations for myself coming into this season. With this award, though, it shows the hard work I gave throughout the whole season.”

Zuniga opened the season red hot, matching his season total of 14 goals last season in just 10 non-district matches.

He carried that momentum into district, averaging 1.4 goals per contest to spearhead a furious Lobos offensive attack. His 24 district goals ranked eighth in the RGV.

“The biggest difference from last year was my confidence,” Zuniga said. “I also had a good group of teammates and captains supporting me. I had the best captains and best supporting cast, especially my coaches. My family also played a big role. They always came to my games. This season was just an honor.”

Zuniga’s offensive dominance yielded a historic season by the sophomore striker, cementing his place among Lopez’s greats late in the regular season.

His goal during the Lobos 4-1 victory over Edcouch-Elsa moved him into No. 1 all-time in single-season goals scored at Brownsville Lopez, surpassing the mark of 34 set by Enrique “Chicles” Zuniga in 2005.

Zuniga added another five goals before the year’s end, setting the program mark at 39.

“It means a lot for me to get that record,” Zuniga said. “I remember coming to the games with my dad, so this means so much. I’ve seen the great players Lopez has produced and where they’re playing now. For me to be able to secure a spot with a program as historic as Lopez is amazing.”

With Zuniga leading the offensive charge, the Lobos marched past the first round for the first time since 2018, with Zuniga sealing the 3-2 victory over Valley View in the opening round with a late goal.

The Lobos marched on to the Region IV-5A tournament for the first time in six years following their opening-round win before bowing out to Leander Rouse in the regional semifinal round.

With a record-setting year behind him, Zuniga has his eyes on even more next season.

“Next year I really just want to go to state and contend for that state title. That is all I need,” Zuniga said. “Maybe another MVP award, too, though.”

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