The Brownsville Veterans Chargers’ historic run continued last week, coming from behind to take down previously unbeaten Corpus Christi Miller 35-28 at home.
The victory placed the Chargers among elite company, becoming just the 16th RGV football team to reach the state semifinals and the first to do so since the 2003 Port Isabel Tarpons.
The Chargers aren’t done yet, looking to become just the fourth RGV football team to reach the state title game and the first since the 1963 PSJA High Bears.
Standing in their way is a Smithson Valley team gearing up for its seventh state semifinal appearance and seeking a return to the state title game for the first time since 2004.
The RGVSports.com staff took a look at each team’s starters in key positions to see how the teams match up heading into Friday’s contest.
Kickoff for the Class 5A DI state semifinal between the Chargers (12-2) and Rangers (13-1) is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi.
Brownsville Veterans quarterback Storm Montoya put the team on his back during last week’s comeback victory over Corpus Christi Miller, scoring all four of his rushing touchdowns during the second half.
Montoya also made timely passes for first downs during the Chargers’ final two drives, leading to the game-tying and go-ahead scores. The junior signal-caller finished the game with 83 passing yards, adding 106 yards and four scores on the ground.
Montoya has demonstrated his ability to get it done through the air and on the ground all season long, completing 56-of-104 passes for 1,086 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games, and running the ball 105 times for 646 yards and 16 touchdowns.
His counterpart this week is Smithson Valley’s 6-foot-2 signal caller Ryland Walker. The senior quarterback has completed 63.3% of his passes this season, throwing for 2,049 yards and 20 touchdowns.
While not a running threat on the stat sheet, running the ball just 14 times for 41 yards and one touchdown, Walker’s big frame makes him a threat in short-yardage situations.
With Walker at the helm, the Rangers are averaging 158.4 passing yards and 38.6 points per game.
Brownsville Veterans and Smithson Valley’s rushing attacks took center stage during both team’s comeback victories last week, each rushing for more than 275 yards during their respective contests.
Senior athlete Gilbert Trillo led the Chargers with 137 yards on 19 carries last week, adding the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
Meanwhile, junior Bradley Sowersby erupted for 245 yards and two touchdowns during the Rangers’ 31-24 victory over A&M Consolidated, including the game-winning 9-yard touchdown run to cap the comeback.
Trillo and Sowersby are just two names to watch in the running game heading into Friday’s state semifinal, with both the Chargers and Rangers fielding multiple weapons in the backfield.
Junior fullback Alvin Trevillion is the Chargers’ leading rusher, toting the rock 211 times for 1,467 yards and 10 touchdowns. Trillo ranks second on the team with 85 carries for 808 yards and 13 scores, also adding 15 catches for 365 yards and nine touchdowns.
Sowersby leads his team in rushing yards this season, carrying the ball 187 times for 1,155 yards and 17 scores. He’s complemented by two-way player Cade Spradling, who ranks second on the team with 859 yards and 13 touchdowns on 150 carries.
The Chargers’ passing attack normally takes a backseat to its run game, averaging just 88.3 passing yards per game in comparison to 328.4 on the ground.
When big plays are needed, however, Brownsville Veterans has playmakers ready to have their number called.
Senior receiver Gerry Gomez finished last week with a team-high three catches for 46 yards, and senior tight end Nick Tovar added two catches for 22 yards. While the numbers don’t pop out on the stat sheet, the receptions came during pivotal moments of the Chargers’ comeback.
Gomez enters Friday averaging 26.7 yards per reception, hauling in 23 catches for 614 yards and four scores this year. Meanwhile, Tovar has added 15 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, and also has been a force in the run game with his blocking.
The Rangers are led into the contest by a more balanced offensive attack, averaging 158.4 yards through the air and 197.6 on the ground.
Pacing the passing game is four-star Texas commit Freddie Dubose. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound wideout leads the Rangers with 54 receptions for 729 yards and four touchdowns.
He’s joined by a trio of capable wideouts in Brody Day, Jackson Duffey and Cole Freund, each with at least 325 receiving yards and two touchdowns this year.
Any coach will tell you the game is won in the trenches. The Chargers and Rangers are testaments to that statement, with both teams fielding dominant offensive lines.
District 16-5A DI Offensive Lineman of the Year Matthew Pinion has been the heart and soul of the Chargers’ offensive line, helping the team average 416.6 total yards per game.
Lining up alongside Pinion are Israel Yanez, Jezreel Garza, Rafael Lara and Santiago Sanchez.
The Rangers are led by several big bodies in the trenches, including towering right guard Will Mack. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound junior is joined on the right side by 6-foot-4 tackle Bryce Peterson.
Jeremiah Jenkins and Reese Anderson anchor the left side of the line, while 6-foot-1, 285-pound center Gavin Garcia commands the unit from his center position.
The Chargers’ defensive line brought the heat last week against a dominant Buccaneers passing attack, recording five quarterback hurries and one sack.
Leading the charge was senior defensive end Miguel Selvera, who finished the game with five total tackles and three quarterback hurries.
Selvera has been a key component in the trenches for the Chargers this year, leading the group with 63 total tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Playing alongside Selvera in the trenches are a pair of sophomore defensive tackles in Andrew Quintero (55 total tackles, one sack) and Damian Rodriguez (54 total tackles, one TFL) and senior defensive end Matt Maldonado (54 total tackles, one TFL).
The Rangers have four disruptors in the trenches as well, highlighted by defensive ends Owen Hack and Hudson Woods. The duo put on a show during the team’s win over A&M Consolidated last week, combining for 23 total tackles, six tackles for loss and one sack.
Hack ranks first among the team’s defensive linemen in tackles (86), also adding 15 tackles for loss and three sacks. Woods, a sophomore, has made his presence felt in opponents’ backfields this year, racking up 24 tackles for loss and 12 sacks to go along with 55 total tackles.
Defensive tackles Dylan Gass and Caleb Sosa man the interior line for the Rangers, combining for 30 tackles for loss and 14 sacks this year.
The Chargers and Rangers are both led defensively by a pair of field general linebackers.
Senior Jaime Martinez has lived around the football for Brownsville Veterans this year, recording 158 total tackles in 14 appearances. The hard-nosed linebacker’s high football IQ allows him to diagnose plays as they unfold, making him a threat to blow up any play in the backfield.
On the other side, senior Nicholas Dudzikowski has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Rangers, racking up 117 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two sacks and two defensive touchdowns.
The pair of linebackers are joined by capable playmakers in their respective linebacking corps.
Senior Max Fernandez delivered a standout performance during the Chargers’ victory over the Buccaneers last week, tallying nine total tackles and one sack during the win, bringing his season total to 108 total tackles and four tackles for loss.
Meanwhile, Jaxson Maynard and Cade Spradling have been dominant in their own regard for the Rangers. Spradling, a junior, ranks second on the team with 100 total tackles, also adding 14 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles, and senior Maynard has recorded 97 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Both the Chargers and Rangers field ball-hawking defensive backs in their units, making it difficult to pass against either team.
The Chargers enter the contest allowing just 137.4 yards through the air, and the Rangers are allowing 133.3.
Senior two-way athlete Gilbert Trillo has had a nose for the ball this year, coming up with six interceptions and three fumble recoveries for the Chargers in 14 games. The District 16-5A DI MVP showed his big play prowess once again against the Buccaneers last week, coming up with the fumble recovery that set up the go-ahead score and breaking up the final pass of the game in the end zone to secure the win.
Trillo isn’t the only game-changer in the Chargers’ secondary, joined by Eroz Pineda. The junior DB came up with the interception to flip the momentum in favor of Brownsville Veterans last week. Pineda has recorded 67 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two interceptions this year.
On the other side, senior two-sport athlete Zach Gingrich anchors the Rangers’ secondary, snagging six interceptions and returning four for touchdowns. The Texas State baseball commit also has 11 pass deflections, two blocked punts and 53 total tackles to his name.
Safey Diego Davila is another big name in the Rangers’ defensive back room, recording 55 total tackles this year, along with six tackles for loss, six pass deflections and four interceptions.
Kickers are a rare breed at the high school level, with reliable ones hard to find.
The Chargers and Rangers both field reliable capable weapons in their kicking game, however.
Junior Roman Reyna has been near perfect for the Chargers in the playoffs, connecting on 20-of-21 extra point attempts, including 13 straight makes heading into Friday. Reyna has also gone 2-of-2 on field goal attempts in four playoff games, including a long of 24.
On the year, the junior kicker is 54-of-57 on PATs for a 94.7% conversion rate and has gone 3-of-3 on field goal attempts with a long of 41.
The Rangers field one of the top kickers in the state in Arkansas State commit Clayton Amaya. The senior, who earned TSWA third-team all-state honors a year ago, has hit 62 extra points this year and gone 12-of-12 on field goal attempts with a long of 56 yards.
Amaya also serves as the team’s punter, averaging 41.6 yards per kick on 31 attempts.
The Chargers are on the verge of reaching territory only three other RGV football teams have reached, just one win away from the state title game.
Getting there won’t be easy, with a Smithson Valley team loaded with playmakers standing in their way.
Don’t count the Chargers out, however, with Brownsville Veterans playing the underdog role the past two weeks and still coming out on top.
With both teams hungry for a state championship berth, one for the first time in program history and one for the first time in two decades, expect a physical contest when the Chargers and Rangers take the field.