Falcons grow through adversity, reach regional quarterfinals

The stakes will be high when Los Fresnos plays host to the Edinburg Vela Sabercats on Friday, but fortunately for the Falcons, they thrive in tough situations.

Los Fresnos has faced numerous challenges throughout the season, including injuries that seemingly piled up during the first part of the season. As athletes stepped up to fill holes or new roles for the team, the Falcons’ maturity and confidence grew.

That growth has carried Los Fresnos (20-6-2) to the 6A regional quarterfinal round, where they’ll face off with Edinburg Vela (21-4) in a one-game playoff at 7 p.m. Friday.

“This has been the most tough season for me as a coach, just putting it all together, but this is the most enjoyable with these kids,” Falcons coach Rene Morales said. “We’ve gone through a lot of stuff and a lot of kids have contributed in different ways throughout the season. The kids have responded well to anything we’ve asked them to do.

“When things started to happen, when we lost a couple kids and others stepped up, they started believing in each other. That’s the main thing this season, they believe in each other,” he continued.

The Falcons believe they’re capable of making history by earning a win and the first trip to the Sweet 16 in program history. Though one-game playoffs are tough, Morales has spades of confidence in his team in do-or-die situations. Los Fresnos is no stranger to one-game playoffs, having won one in the bi-district round over PSJA High at the start of this postseason run and winning two back-to-back in 2019 to reach the third round.

“They give us everything they’ve got every game,” Morales said. “Our kids have been there. Our kids feel comfortable because they know they’re going to leave it all on the field for one game, and they can’t sit back and think, ‘We’ve got tomorrow.’ If we have one game, we’re going to go attack it.”

The Falcons and Sabercats have been in this spot before. In 2018, Vela defeated Los Fresnos 2-1 in a regional quarterfinal series. But this team is different and it’s battle-tested, which Morales sees as an advantage.

A strong group of seniors — including southpaw ace Victor Loa, catcher Jacob Sandoval, center fielder Germain Castillo and infielder/pitcher Sidney Moore — have all the experience necessary to lead Los Fresnos. They anchor the Falcons’ solid defense and have been key producers at the plate.

Loa has earned wins on the mound in all three playoff games after being unable to start for most of the year due to injury. Moore, Castillo and injured senior pitcher Oscar Franco carried Los Fresnos on the bump during the regular season. Sandoval and Castillo lead the Falcons’ offense with .414 batting averages, and Castillo has totaled a team-high 29 RBIs.

Morales thinks home-field advantage should bode well for Los Fresnos, though the recent heavy rains may even things out. If the game can’t be played Friday, it’ll be moved to Saturday. If Los Fresnos’ field isn’t playable at that time, the teams have PSJA North’s field on hold.

Regardless of where or when, Morales expects a competitive game between two very good teams that know everything is on the line.

“Both teams will be ready. It’s going to be a great game,” Morales said. “They’re a good team, and they’ve got good pitching. Their defense is good, just like us. We match up evenly, I think, and it’s just going to come down to the team that goes out there and plays best.”