EDINBURG — Edinburg Vela has cemented itself as a powerhouse on the football field over the course of the past decade. The SaberCats have won six district championships and 13 playoff games dating back to 2014.
During the past three years, PSJA North has powered its way into that top tier, joining the ranks of the Rio Grande Valley’s best programs with teams like Edinburg Vela, Harlingen High and San Benito.
Now, the Raiders and SaberCats are set to collide in the RGVSports.com Game of the Week in what likely will determine the District 15-5A DI championship. Kickoff between Edinburg Vela (4-0, 1-0) and PSJA North (4-0, 1-0) is at 7:30 tonight at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.
FINDING WAYS TO WIN
After opening with a blowout victory over Edinburg North, 62-14, and a 45-24 win over Edinburg High, the SaberCats have fought deep into the fourth quarter for their past two wins.
In Week 3 against Weslaco East, the SaberCats and Wildcats went back and forth for four quarters until Jamal Polley scored the game-winning touchdown run with less than two minutes remaining for a 42-35 win.
During last week’s RGVSports.com Game of the Week, the McAllen Memorial Mustangs led the SaberCats by 10 early in the fourth quarter. Noah Rocha and Bernabe Gonzalez came up with back-to-back touchdowns, and the Vela defense made two stops to lift the SaberCats over the Mustangs.
Vela enters Week 5 with its offense averaging 419.8 yards per game, and the SaberCats’ defense is surrendering 356 yards per game.
Polley, Vela’s senior running back, ranks as the fifth-leading rusher among all classes in Texas, according to MaxPreps. He’s run for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns on 67 carries, averaging 208 yards per game. The Vela offense also has multiple weapons to turn to in Gonzalez, AJ Reyes and Jaxson Shupe.
The key for Vela against North will be stopping the run. If the SaberCats’ defense can find a way to slow the Raiders’ overpowering rushing attack, it will have a chance to get some stops and avenge last year’s 28-21 loss.
ROLLING THROUGH THE COMPETITION
PSJA North has been an unstoppable force through the first four weeks of the regular season, and its No. 9 state ranking by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football proves it.
The Raiders have played four games and recorded shutouts in three of them, including last week’s 56-0 demolishing of McAllen High. PSJA North’s defense, which ranks best in the Valley, allowing 122.7 yards per game, surrendered just 29 total yards of offense to the Bulldogs. It’s the second time it has held an opponent to less than 100 yards this season (81 total yards to PSJA High in Week 1).
PSJA North’s offense, which averages 498.3 yards per game, received a boost last week with the return of starting quarterback Ale Aparicio, who had been sidelined with an upper body injury since the preseason.
Aparicio and fellow quarterback/tight end Julius Arredondo give PSJA North a dynamic duo under center, while a three-headed monster in the backfield of Jaden Fuentes, Ethan Guerra and Jason Montez is a headache for opposing defenses. All three possess skills to pound the rock, break free for big runs or show off their hands in the passing game.
The key for PSJA North will be containing Edinburg Vela’s run game, led by a big offensive line clearing paths for Polley, who was injured early in last year’s meeting against the Raiders. If PSJA North’s offensive and defensive fronts can impose their will against Vela, the Raiders’ road to a second straight District 15-5A DI championship and perfect 10-0 season becomes much clearer.