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BROWNSVILLE — Brownsville Veterans Memorial has earned the privilege of practicing in December. Not many earn that right, not just in the Rio Grande Valley but in the state of Texas.
The Chargers were up early Monday for a 6 a.m. practice, their usual go time, as they begin to prepare for Smithson Valley at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 5A DI state semifinal at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi.
Brownsville Veterans was all smiles Monday. Only one player needed a stern talking to. It is hard not to smile after picking up a historic 35-28 come-from-behind victory against Corpus Christi Miller on Friday in the Region IV-5A DI final.
Even though the Chargers have this positive aura about them — deservedly so, as they were probably viewed as underdogs in many people’s eyes during their past three games — the state semifinalists were all business with Smithson Valley on the horizon.
“We are getting ready to play in the second week of December, that is pretty crazy to say,” Brownsville Veterans head coach JC Ramirez said.
Ramirez said that every team starts its season with the same goals, doing well in non-district, performing well in district, winning a district championship, making the playoffs and making a good playoff run with the ultimate goal being to win a state championship.
“Just to be so close and to have a realistic road to getting to the state championship game, because you decide whether or not you get there based on the outcome of this game, is pretty cool,” Ramirez said. “Just to have the opportunity to play this far in the playoffs is pretty cool.”
Ramirez said the staff has done a good job of keeping to the task at hand. The Chargers celebrated Saturday but were back to work Sunday.
Ramirez praised defensive coaches Jesse Alaniz, Jaime Castañeda and Jerry Delgado for their service at Brownsville Veterans even before Ramirez arrived as the defensive coordinator last season.
“Those three guys are the pillars of our defense,” Ramirez said. “This year, we were able to add Ruben Cortez and Mark Schlatter to help us with the safeties. I have a very seasoned staff on the defensive side of the ball.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Evans has received extra help from subvarsity coaches Matt Leffler, Adam Vera and others during the playoff season. Vera is the head coach for the baseball team.
“Those extra guys on the staff have been really good,” Evans said.
Vera is enjoying being a part of this historic run.
“I am just happy to be here and help out in any way I can,” Vera said. “This team has left their mark. Other teams from here until I don’t know how long are going to always look at this team and say, ‘Hey, that Vets that went to fifth round.’ Even though my role is small. I just want to help out in any way I can.”
Evans expects to face a disciplined, well-coached, technical and detail-oriented Smithson Valley on Friday night.
“We just have to play tough and bring it to them,” Chargers linebacker Jaime Martinez said. “They are going to take us light for sure. They might not expect us like PSJA North did, and we just got to hit them in the mouth.”
Brownsville ISD announced on its website the that fifth-round game is sold out. The tickets were only available for two hours after going on sale at 7 a.m. Monday.
Ramirez is proud of all the support the team has received from around the Valley, but he is especially happy with the support the team has had from Brownsville.
“I am really the happiest for our true fan base, which is our team parents, faculty and school staff. They are tremendous when it comes to supporting our teams. And then our extended families and the people that really bleed Charger red, white and blue,” Ramirez said.
“It is a tremendous honor, and I could not be happier for our kids to say we are not only representing our school, Brownsville, but the whole Valley as well. It has been phenomenal, and I expect the same thing to happen this Friday.”
There is plenty of hype around the Chargers as they embark this week on the state experience and prepare for their biggest game of the season. Ramirez was congratulated by UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor for his team’s performance.
“We enjoyed the win, but we moved on,” Ramirez said.