WRITER’S NOTE: This story is part of a series highlighting the Brownsville Herald/Valley Morning Star boys soccer all-area award winners. The Herald/Star coverage area ranges from Brownsville to La Feria. Check back throughout the week as we reveal the Lower Valley’s other superlative winners and be sure to pick up a copy of Saturday’s newspaper for a complete list of the all-area winners. 

The San Benito Greyhounds returned to the UIL state soccer playoffs for the first time since 2019 this season, finishing fourth in District 32-6A.

A big reason for their return was the immediate impact of freshman midfielder Francisco Barrientos.

The San Benito first year scored five goals in 10 district games, ranking eighth in District 32-6A this year. Barrientos is the Brownsville Herald/Valley Morning Star 2024 All-Area Boys Soccer Newcomer of the Year.

San Benito’s Francisco Barrientos is the Herald/Star 2024 All-Area Boys Soccer Newcomer of the Year. (Andrew Cordero | Special to RGVSports)

“It means a lot winning this award,” Barrientos said. “There are a lot of kids out there going for this award too. I’m thankful for receiving this. I honestly don’t think I did my best this year, but I’m preparing even harder for next year so we can win team awards, district titles and all that stuff.”

Starting as a freshman on a playoff caliber team was no easy task for Barrientos, recalling the challenge of playing against experienced and older players from the start.

That didn’t slow the freshman midfielder from showing flashes during Year 1.

One of his biggest performances came during a district contest against Harlingen High on March 5, a game in which Barrientos scored the game-tying goal. The Greyhounds would go on to defeat the Cardinals in penalties to secure two points.

Barrientos also added a pair of two-goal performances during district play, scoring twice during an overtime loss to Los Fresnos and twice during a 6-0 win over Weslaco High.

“It was challenging facing those bigger people,” Barrientos said. “I just had to put in the work. Those last couple of games, I felt like I was used to it. I feel like I’ve got the rhythm and the speed of the game down now.”

San Benito’s season came to an end in the bi-district round of the 6A playoffs, falling Region IV-6A runner-up Edinburg North.

The early postseason loss left Barrientos motivated going into next season, looking for even more during Year 2.

San Benito’s Francisco Barrientos is the Herald/Star 2024 All-Area Boys Soccer Newcomer of the Year. (Andrew Cordero | Special to RGVSports)

“As an individual, I want to be MVP,” Barrientos said. “I feel like if I put in the work I can get that award. More importantly, though, we’re trying to see if next year we can be better as a team. Being in the playoffs as a freshman after not being there for five years, it is exciting and motivating.”

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