Brownsville Lopez and Brownsville Porter are separated by roughly five miles, traveled primarily along Southmost Boulevard.
The two football programs on the south side of town face off in one of Brownsville’s best rivalries — the Battle of Southmost. This year’s edition will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Sams Memorial Stadium, and with both the Porter Cowboys and Lopez Lobos chasing their first District 16-5A Division I wins, it has an extra layer of importance.
“It’s friends playing against friends for bragging rights on this side of town,” Lobos coach Armando Gutierrez said. “If you look at the totality of both programs, we’re kind of along the same lines. It makes it that much bigger of a game, and it adds more to the mystique of the entire thing. … It sounds cliché, but honestly, it’s the heart of Southmost. That’s why I think this one’s huge, and it can go either way.”
Said Cowboys coach Carlos Uresti: “Growing up in the same area makes it much more interesting. It’s very competitive, very emotional and it’s a game that both schools look forward to playing each year. … It adds an extra spice to the game. Coaches don’t want to lose any games, but the kids especially don’t want to lose this game.”
Lopez (0-6, 0-5) hasn’t had junior quarterback Jacob Cortinas for a couple of weeks due to an injury, and it’s questionable whether he’ll play Friday. Senior Juan Jaramillo, the team’s MVP in Gutierrez’s eyes, has stepped up to share quarterback duties with senior Matthew Compean. The Lobos’ running back committee — comprised of senior Omar Cervantes, senior Diego Sixtos, junior Jesus Castillo and sophomore Pablo Lopez — is utilized in different schemes.
Senior middle linebacker Manny De La Cruz leads a young but growing defense that Lopez will depend on as it aims to contain Porter’s speed.
“We’re doing (quarterback) by committee as well as our running backs, so there’s a lot of moving parts. One of the biggest things for us is being able to come in and out offensively in different formations,” Gutierrez said. “Our ability to suffocate their backfield is going to be the key for us, so we’ll be leaning on our defense for sure. They’ve had to handle a lot. With our offense not being on the field a lot, they’ve had to carry the brunt of the work, and they’ve stepped up.”
Porter (1-5, 0-5) has a dynamic defensive end duo of senior Arath De La Torre and junior Sam Moreno leading its solid defensive front. Senior defensive back Adriel Trevino shores up the secondary and has multiple interceptions and a fumble recovery score to his name.
Offensively, Porter’s running backs — senior Juan Zavala, junior Marcos Ramirez and sophomore Gael Hernandez — work behind an improving offensive line. Junior receiver Gunnar Williams has a knack for making things happen with the ball in his hands.
Uresti said the Cowboys have been watching a lot of different Lopez games on film to prepare for a number of offensive looks. Lopez’s size poses a challenge, so Uresti wants the defense to be “extra aggressive” and for the running backs to “buck up and start running more downhill.”
The fighting spirit the Cowboys possess is something Uresti believes makes his team special and capable of picking up the win.
“I always say the same thing because it’s true — when you see us compete, you can’t help but respect what our kids are doing,” Uresti said. “It’s not a big team numbers-wise, but one thing I can honestly say is the kids have no quit in them. They fight from the first whistle to the last whistle, and that’s something we take extreme pride in as a coaching staff. These kids fight for everything they have.”
Both coaches are expecting to have good crowds cheering on their teams, and they’re anticipating this year’s Battle of Southmost will live up to its name.
“There’s not much I have to tell them. We started practice Monday and they knew what this game means, they knew it’s a big game for us,” Uresti said. “I expect an electric type of atmosphere. I’m looking forward to another competitive game, like most of these district games have been for us, and hopefully we come out on top. We’re due.”
Said Gutierrez: “It’s going to be what it always is, wild. (Fans are) going to be screaming and hollering, and they’re going to be excited, and our players, too. We always love the atmosphere for the kids, but for us coaches it’s about focusing and getting that ‘W.’ … It’s going to be a fight, but at the end of the day, I’m glad we can all come together and know that we’re BISD proud.”