The Rio Grande Valley is sending 14 playoff teams from Class 5A into this year’s UIL playoffs, with several RGV vs. RGV bi-district matchups. From PSJA North’s lofty expectations, to exciting rematches from earlier in the year, to a handful of underdogs making playoff appearances, Round 1 of the postseason delivers plenty for football fans across South Texas.
CLASS 5A DI
NO. 4 DONNA HIGH AT NO. 1 PSJA NORTH
A first-round rematch is on tap for PSJA North (10-0, 7-0) and Donna High (6-4, 3-3) with a 7 p.m. kickoff tonight at PSJA Stadium in Pharr.
The District 15-5A DI champion Raiders enter the postseason as the seventh-ranked team in the state, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s latest Class 5A DI rankings. PSJA North is looking to start the playoffs with a bang as the Raiders hope to match last year’s regional final appearance, with goals to take it a step further into the Final Four.
Donna will look to play spoiler, led by quarterback Geoffrey Creighton Lefevre (3,199 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns), receiver Xavier Rodriguez (70 catches, 1,105 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) and running back Marcus Mata, who is back in the lineup after missing a chunk of the season due to injury.
NO. 3 WESLACO EAST AT NO. 2 EDINBURG VELA
The SaberCats (9-1, 6-1) and Wildcats (6-4, 4-2) meet for the fourth time in two years after squaring off in the regular season and in last year’s bi-district round of the playoffs. East and Vela went head-to-head Sept. 7 in Edinburg, with the SaberCats pulling out a 42-35 victory in a back-and-forth affair.
Vela senior running back Jamal Polley (1,542 rushing yards, 26 rushing touchdowns) went off with 327 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 21 carries in the non-district win. East senior quarterback Alex Martinez (1,300 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, 1,106 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns) led the Wildcats with 205 passing yards, 117 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against Vela.
The emergence of receiver Jediah Rivens has been key to East’s offensive success in recent weeks as the basketball player has caught 30 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns since debuting in Week 6.
Vela’s passing attack has made strides during the past two months as quarterback Myles Lopez has found reliable targets in Bernabe Gonzalez (28 catches, 350 yards, five touchdowns) and Jaxson Shupe (18 catches, 277 yards, three touchdowns), who has split time playing safety in the SaberCats’ secondary.
Kickoff between East and Vela is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.
NO. 4 McALLEN HIGH AT NO. 1 BROWNSVILLE VETERANS
Both the Bulldogs (7-3, 4-3) and Chargers (8-2, 6-0) advanced to Round 3 of the playoffs a season ago, but only one will advance to this year’s area round as McHi visits Brownsville Veterans at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sams Memorial Stadium in Brownsville.
The back-to-back District 16-5A DI champion Chargers have won six straight and have outscored opponents 311-58 during the streak. Brownsville Veterans attacks opponents in waves with 10 different players scoring rushing touchdowns this season, led by Storm Montoya (473 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) and Alvin Trevillion (920 rushing yards, eight touchdowns).
McHi will lean on its running game led by Jayden Herrera, who has rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Bulldogs also have multiple weapons for quarterback Joaquin Valdez to find all over the field in receivers Nick Karam, Tristan Keith and the return of athlete Max Alvarez.
NO. 3 McALLEN MEMORIAL AT NO. 2 HARLINGEN SOUTH
The Hawks (7-3, 5-1) and Mustangs (7-3, 5-2) might be the most evenly matched first-round playoff game as both teams run the ball well and play sound defense.
Harlingen South is led by running backs David Sanchez and Alvin Edwards, who have combined for more than 1,200 rushing yards on the year. McAllen Memorial’s backfield of Sebastian Aleman and JP Garza has been tough for defenses to stop, while sophomore quarterback Kane Coy has shown a connection with playmaker Dylan Goodson in cooking up big plays.
Kickoff between the Hawks and Mustangs is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen.
CLASS 5A DII
NO. 4 EDCOUCH-ELSA AT NO. 1 SHARYLAND PIONEER
The Yellow Jackets (4-6, 2-3) and Diamondbacks (9-1, 4-1) collide in Round 1 with a matchup of aerial assaults taking center stage at 7 tonight at Richard Thompson Stadium in Mission.
District 16-5A DII tri-champion Pioneer is led by senior signal caller Julian Valdez (2,396 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns, 781 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns) and receiver Leo Espinoza (58 catches, 1,166 receiving yards, 18 touchdowns).
Meanwhile, Edcouch-Elsa quarterback Elijah Trevino has thrown for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 595 yards and eight scores. Jayreed Amaya leads the Yellow Jackets with 59 grabs for 735 yards and 14 touchdowns.
NO. 3 VALLEY VIEW AT NO. 2 MISSION VETERANS
Valley View is making just its second playoff appearance in program history after upsetting Edcouch-Elsa 16-7 last week in the Tigers’ regular-season finale. Running back Daniel Negrete has been a steady force for the Valley View offense with nearly 700 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.
Mission Veterans quarterback Braden Luedeker has been on a tear all season with 2,987 passing yards, 34 passing touchdowns, 1,127 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
He finished with 240 passing yards, 162 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in a 38-35 victory over Roma last week, which helped the Patriots capture a share of the District 16-5A DII title, the program’s fifth district championship in seven seasons.
Kickoff between the Patriots (6-4, 4-1) and Tigers (3-7, 2-3) is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission.
NO. 3 ROMA AT NO. 2 GREGORY-PORTLAND
The Roma Gladiators (9-1, 4-1) are fresh off winning the first district title in program history as tri-district champions and are ready to make their fourth playoff appearance since beginning varsity competition in 1990.
The Gladiators enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed from 16-5A DII due to a points tiebreaker and will face Gregory-Portland in Round 1, but Roma isn’t the average 3-seed.
The Gladiators can grind out victories like they did in their 48-41 win over Pioneer or their 48-40 double overtime victory against PSJA Memorial.
The Rio Grande Valley’s leading rusher, Isaac Lozano, spearheads the Gladiators’ rushing offense with 1,886 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns, while running back Ediel Garcia (1,120 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) and quarterback David Galan (856 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) provide a triple threat out of the Roma backfield. Kickoff between the Gladiators and Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Ray Akins Wildcat Stadium in Portland.
NO. 4 PSJA MEMORIAL AT NO. 1 C.C. FLOUR BLUFF
From a 1-9 overall record in 2021 to a 7-3 mark in 2023, the Wolverines (7-3, 2-3) have turned things around on the gridiron in Alamo under third-year head coach Will Littleton. The Wolverines’ seven wins this season are the team’s most since 2010 as PSJA Memorial gears up for its first playoff appearance since 2011.
The Wolverines face a tall task against District 15-5A DII champion Flour Bluff (7-2, 5-0), but PSJA Memorial has proven to be a tough team that can’t be counted out. Quarterback Ryan Reyna (742 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 704 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns) will be relied on to lead the PSJA Memorial offense, and defensive anchor Marcus Hernandez (60 tackles, nine tackles for loss) looks to wreak havoc defensively.
The Wolverines and Hornets are scheduled for a 7 p.m. start Friday at Hornet Stadium in Corpus Christi.