LA VILLA The La Villa Cardinals have captured nine district championships in program history. The team’s best stretch came during a three-year run beginning in 2006 that ended with three consecutive district titles.

Now, La Villa’s seniors have a chance to match that as the back-to-back District 16-2A DI champions chase its third straight gold ball. The Cardinals begin the season ranked No. 2 in the sub-5A poll.

“This year, we just have higher goals and higher expectations,” senior athlete Brandon Felix said. “Coach (Danny) Perez makes it fun. Everybody’s motivated to keep it going. ‘It’s a good feeling when you win,’ that’s what he tells us.”

La Villa posted a 9-3 record in 2021 and followed it with an 8-3 mark in 2022. The Cardinals have qualified for the playoffs in eight straight years and haven’t dropped a district game since November 2020.

LaVilla’s Brandon Felix (6) releases a pass as he is pressured by Ganado’s defender Adam Tristan Jr. (70) in the 1st half of a Region IV-2A D1 area round playoff game at Cabaniss Stadium on Thursday, Nov.18,2021 in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

“It’s a good thing having those back-to-back district titles, but at the same time, we also have a lot of pressure on us because everybody, even the community, wants that three-peat, so we have to make it happen,” junior receiver and linebacker Victor Ornelas said. “It’s amazing since we’re such a little city, we mean a lot to the community. They support us a lot and are a big fan base. I love seeing my people watching me and my teammates.”

Felix returns as one of the top playmakers in South Texas. His versatility to play quarterback, defensive back and on special teams allows him to impact games in all three phases. He threw for 1,061 yards, ran for 1,136 yards, and scored a combined 29 touchdowns in 12 games last season.

“I’m trying to make the most out of my senior year,” Felix said.

He’ll also have Rey Perez to hand the rock to out of the backfield. Perez is a quick and elusive back who was a 1,000-yard rusher with nine touchdowns in 2022.

Defensively, defensive tackle Joey Escobar is a threat in the trenches with 70 tackles and nine tackles for loss a season ago. Linebacker Pedro Ortiz gives the Cardinals a playmaker in the middle of the field after recording 77 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception. Ornelas will take on double duty with time at linebacker and receiver, giving La Villa the pieces needed to push for a third straight district championship.

The Cardinals had two close calls in district play last season a 36-35 win over Santa Maria and a 14-12 victory over Freer in the regular-season finale. Both the Cougars and Buckaroos are shaping up to be formidable foes once again. The good thing for the Cardinals this time around is they’ll get to host both Santa Maria and Freer in La Villa.

“We’ve been putting in the work and our team will be ready for whoever comes our way,” Felix said.

La Villa kicks off the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Progreso at La Villa High School. The Cardinals will face Lyford (Sept. 1), Santa Rosa (Sept. 9), Monte Alto (Sept. 15) and Harlingen Marine Military Academy (Sept. 21) in non-district play.

La Villa is scheduled to open district competition against Riviera-Kaufer on Oct. 6.

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