BROWNSVILLE — Brownsville Veterans Memorial players understand the deserved hype around PSJA North this season. Most of the team played in this game last year. Even though they respect the Raiders – the Chargers are going to Pharr on Friday to win.
The Raiders handled the Chargers 35-15 at Sams Stadium in Brownsville last season in the Class 5A Region IV semifinals. This season, Brownsville Veterans and PSJA North meet at PSJA Stadium at 4 p.m. on Friday.
The Chargers (10-2, 6-0) are a different team that lost to the Raiders (12-0, 7-0) in this round last season, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Brownsville Veterans lost a lot of key pieces from last season – coaches and players.
This season, with the remnants of last season, has created the same results with a team that resembles the previous regime.
Another meeting with PSJA North in the third round in what is expected to be another physical game with the undefeated District 15-5A DI champions and the No. 7 team in Dave Campbell’s Texas High School Football’s Class 5A DI rankings.
Chargers head coach JC Ramirez was the defensive coordinator for Brownsville Veterans last season before moving to the head coaching spot for the 2023 season.
Ramirez, a longtime defensive coach in the Brownsville area, sought to make the Chargers a more versatile team on the defensive side of the ball. Brownsville Veterans lined up exclusively in the 3-3 stack and playing Cover 3 before Ramirez added two new defenses this season to give the Chargers more options, he said.
Ramirez watched film this week of last season’s third round meeting at Sams Stadium. Ramirez said his team does a lot of things better now in the team’s third season in the brand of football the Chargers play.
“We are really happy where we are at now, compared to last year,” Ramirez said. “It is a testament to the work that the coaches decided to put in and the kids decided to put in. So, right now we are playing at a very high level and we believe that they we are going to do extremely well on Friday.”
The Chargers are physical on both sides of the ball. They are not as big as the Raiders, but they pack a punch.
Defensively, that was on display against Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial in the area round and all season in District 16-5A DI.
“Our defense is built on discipline,” Ramirez said. “We are definitely not the biggest defensive unit in the Valley, but statistically from Week 4 and on, we are right up there with any team. We create a lot of turnovers and make big stops when we need too.”
“It goes back to the disciple and how smart are kids are on defense. They are tough as nails, yes. But, we are not a bunch on Neanderthals running out there. It is not a seventh grade defense.”
Ramirez said he could not be versatile with his defense if not for the playmakers and experienced players.
“Last week’s performance was probably one of the proudest moments in my career at leading the defense,” Ramirez said. “Simply because I was able to see all the work we put into our kids. They took it over and ran with it. We beat a darn good opponent at their home, packed stands and it really felt we were in control of the game the whole time.”
The Chargers were great in the first half on first and second down against the Eagles and made important stops on short yardage plays to force turnovers in the second half against the defending regional champions.
Senior defensive ends Matt Maldonado and Miguel Selvera caused Eagles 6’7 quarterback Billy White III plenty of problems outside the pocket while sophomore defensive tackles Andrew Quintero and Damian Rodriguez were strong in the middle.
“I expect a dog fight,” Quintero said about the game on Friday. “There is going to be know feeling each other out. This is not an easy battle for each team.”
Linebacker Jaime Martinez came up with a huge interception late in the area round as the Eagles were driving. The interception was pivotal in helping the Chargers win, but Martinez is focused on the Raiders now and some of things their offensive line likes to do.
“We are just going to come out there and play a physical game,” Martinez said. “That is all we can do and that is all we need to do.”
Martinez and fellow linebackers Jacob Rosas and Max Fernandez need to be disciplined against an extremely disciplined offense.
Ramirez praised PSJA North quarterback Ale Aparicio’s ability to control the offense, especially at the line of scrimmage where he has the ability to check out of plays.
The secondary, led by two-way starters Gerry Gomez and Gilbert Trillo, are ready for the potential pass plays and coming up to stop the run.
“We are better prepared for this year,” Trillo said. “I think our mentality is different than last year because we were just excited to get to the third round, but this year we want to go farther. We have talent that grew throughout last year.”
When Kelley Lee departed at the end of last season he did not take his flexbone offense with him.
Ramirez brought in former PSJA Southwest head coach Mike Evans to run the offense. Ramirez said Evans was one of the only coaches that could do the job in the Valley because of his prior experience with the system.
The Chargers are not going to hit the same yardage as last season’s 6,265. This season they have 5,008, but they have six fewer turnovers than last season.
“I think we have been good from the beginning,” Evans said. “We had to find our groove and we have been doing that. I do not think it has been showing on the scoreboard. Corpus Veterans have a great defense and we found a way to score. We have been clicking at the right times and really doing a great job at protecting the ball.”
The Chargers offense has a lot of ball carriers this season compared to last Ramirez said. Junior fullback Alvin Trevillion is leading the team with 1,261 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Senior guard Matthew Pinion praised Trevillion for his hard running this season. The offensive line of Pinion, Nick Tovar, Rafael Lara, Jezreel Garza, Santiago Sanchez and Israel Yanez expect it to be a physical game against a defense that Evans said is the best in the Valley, and probably the region.
The Chargers can mix it up with the passing game despite being a run-heavy team and have one of the best tight ends, Tovar, one of the best receivers in the Valley in Gomez and the District 16-5A DI MVP, Trillo, as an option for Storm Montoya.
“I think this year we have a lot more weapons,” Tovar said.” Last year, Reece and Chavez were a dynamic duo and this year with our new OC Mike Evans, he is spreading the ball around. Defenses can’t just try and stop Alvin or Storm, they have to stop all of us.”
RGVSports.com will be posting highlights and updates of the game on social media.