EDINBURG — When Edinburg High made a coaching change at the conclusion of the 2020 season, incoming first-year head coach Rene Guzman was tasked with not only running a football program, but rebuilding the Bobcats’ brand after the reputation was tarnished.

Last year ended with the Bobcats making headlines for the wrong reasons after former defensive lineman Emmanuel Duron was ejected from Edinburg High’s regular-season finale against PSJA High. Following the ejection, Duron rushed onto the field and struck referee Fred Gracia, leading to Duron being charged with Class A assault. The UIL then told school officials that they should forfeit their playoff spot, or the UIL would forfeit it for them.

Guzman, a proud 1988 graduate of Edinburg High, feels it’s important to look back in order to move forward. So far this season, the Bobcats have begun to restore the tradition as winners of three straight games and owners of a 3-0 record in district, tied for first in the 31-6A standings.

“I’m just trying to stay positive because this program means a lot to me. The tradition that’s here and everything that happened last year, people cringe every time I bring it up, but you have to bring it up because it’s a lesson learned and you never want to go and repeat that,” he said. “We want to make sure our kids understand there’s a bigger picture than just the wins and losses, the Xs and Os. The guys that came before them, the guys that’ll come after them, what legacy do they want to leave?”

Edinburg High head football coach Rene Guzman gives direction in a non-district game against McAllen High at Richard R Flores Stadium on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The Bobcats currently own the district’s second-ranked defense and have found a rhythm offensively behind the play of quarterback Roland Abrego. While Edinburg High appears to have found the right fit at the helm of the program in Guzman, Abrego has been the right fit for the Bobcats as a leader on and off the field.

A three-year starter, Abrego said it’s important to him to help re-establish Edinburg High as a respected football program. He leads with his play on the field as a hard-nosed runner and the leading rusher in District 31-6A with 580 ground yards, 568 passing yards and 13 total touchdowns.

“I got to do it for my team. My team means the most to me — my coaches, my city, my people — I want to do it for them,” he said. “We haven’t had very much success recently and it hurts me. I want the city to be happy because this is a city full of Bobcats and I want to do it for them. I want everybody to be happy and I want to represent the red and the blue as best as I can.”

Edinburg High’s Rolando Abrego (6) high steps Mission High’s defender Jaime Jude (23) in the first half of a District 31-6A game at Richard R. Flores Stadium on Thursday, Sept.23,2021 in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected])

Abrego is also setting the example for the current and future Bobcats whose times are coming. One current Bobcats player who looks up to Abrego is his younger brother Ryen Abrego, Edinburg High’s sophomore backup quarterback.

“It’s a cool feeling. It’s very heart-warming,” Abrego said. “That’s my little brother and I love him to death and I want what’s best for him. I always tell him, ‘Learn from my mistakes. Don’t be like me, be better than me.’ At the end of the day, we’re family. We want to brag to each other, but to me I just care about my team, care about winning, and I want him to get in there as much as he can. I’m hoping to see him next year. I’m proud of him and he works hard. He’s always on time with me and always wants to be there.”

Next for the Bobcats is a crosstown rivalry game against Edinburg Vela (5-0, 3-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium.

“We have to keep up the energy and keep up the momentum and practice harder, especially because we have a tough team next week in Vela. We fear nobody, but we respect everybody,” Abrego said.

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