There are 26 unbeaten teams in Class 6A midway through the Texas high school football season.
Two of those teams will clash at 7 p.m. today at Bobby Morrow Stadium. The No. 3 San Benito Greyhounds (5-0, 2-0) will be playing host to the No. 4 Harlingen South Hawks (5-0, 2-0) in a massive District 32-6A matchup.
“When we look at our schedule, 32-6A, any given Friday night is a meat-grinder type of game. There’s a lot of great teams in our district, and San Benito’s one of them,” Hawks coach Israel Gonzalez said. “We had a great week of practice. They’re a very well-coached football team, and we prepared as such. We know it’s a really big challenge going into San Benito, and we’re excited about it. I think the atmosphere is going to be electric.”
Said Greyhounds coach Dan Gomez, “The team is focused. Locked in. We understand South is a very much improved program, and they are playing really good football right now.”
Along with their identical records, there are several similarities between the Greyhounds and Hawks.
Both defenses have been dominant this season. San Benito has only given up 48 points to opponents. Harlingen South has only allowed 49. Each team has recorded one shutout victory and held three opponents to less than 10 points scored. Forcing turnovers is a strength for both defensive units.
Offensively, the Greyhounds and Hawks are each led by an efficient quarterback that has a handful of weapons at his disposal. Junior Rodney Rodriguez directs San Benito’s offense and has passed for 503 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Xander Casarez holds the reins for South and has tossed for 743 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both squads run the ball well and have each scored 15 rushing touchdowns.
When they air it out, the Hawks and Greyhounds each have a pair of troublesome receivers.
Senior Jeremiah Rivera leads South’s ground game, which has accumulated 969 yards, with 405 yards and six touchdowns. Rivera and senior Elias Ledesma have emerged as the top targets for Casarez, combining for seven receiving touchdowns. Rivera has 286 yards on 22 catches, and Ledesma has hauled in 23 receptions for 282 yards.
San Benito boasts a whopping 1,233 rushing yards, and the Greyhounds aren’t afraid to lean on sophomore Fabian Garcia to lead the way. Garcia averages 134.2 yards per game and has rushed for six scores. Senior Jermaine Corbin (16 receptions, 249 yards, three TDs) and junior Ricky Perez (14 receptions, 195 yards, four TDs) are the go-to receivers that pick up plenty of yards after a catch.
So, what will set one team apart and help one of these squads maintain its perfect record when the final whistle blows?
Gonzalez believes South’s maturity level and desire to turn the program around are helpful qualities. The Hawks have 40 seniors on the roster leading the program’s best start since 2013.
“Our team’s hungry,” Gonzalez said. “They’re excited about the success they’ve been having. At the same time, they know that rent’s due every day, so they show up and they work, and I’m blessed to have a group of kids that understand that.”
San Benito’s tradition of success inspired a young group to grow up quickly. The Greyhounds tested themselves with a tough non-district slate and came out unscathed, building the program’s confidence. They’re loaded with playmakers on offense and defense, and can show teams a different look with rising junior quarterback Andres Villagran leading some series during games.
Gonzalez said the Hawks have emphasized limiting San Benito’s offensive weapons, mainly Garcia and Corbin. He knows South will be facing “a very aggressive defense.” The ultimate goal for the Hawks is playing a clean game and handling their business to walk out with a win.
“It’s us against ourselves,” Gonzalez said. “We have to go out and execute. If we can limit penalties, if we can limit turnovers, if we can execute in all three phases of the game, then we give ourselves an opportunity to be successful.”
Gomez expressed his appreciation for the job the new Hawks staff has done and expects a competitive game. A packed house is expected, and the spirited San Benito home crowd could provide an advantage.
“Their coaching has been impressive to study. We are expecting nothing less than the best from them,” Gomez said. “They will get theirs, and we will get ours. When the dust settles, we will see who is left standing.”