SAN BENITO — One of the first things observers will see walking into the San Benito fieldhouse is a pair of trophies from the Great American Rivalry Series.
Those trophies recognize two of the Greyhounds’ victories in the legendary Battle of the Arroyo. They haven’t won it since 2018, but they feel confident they’ll be ending that streak today. No. 4 San Benito (5-1, 2-1) will play host to the No. 3 Harlingen High Cardinals (4-2, 2-1) at 7 p.m. at Bobby Morrow Stadium in an important District 32-6A contest.
“It’s two cities close to each other, separated by the Arroyo. Everyone comes out to compete,” junior receiver Ricky Perez said. “It’s the bragging rights, that’s what (fires us up), getting to say we beat them. Even if it wasn’t the Battle of the Arroyo, it’s always good to get a ‘W.’”
The rivalry has been tight recently, with both teams winning five matchups during the past 10 years. Five of those contests have been decided by five points or fewer. It feels like this season’s matchup will be another close thriller, so the ’Hounds are thankful they’ll be playing on their home turf.
“The atmosphere is different when you come play in San Benito. You hear everybody, our fans get wild, and it gives us a boost on the field,” junior free safety DeAnthony Mireles said. “Every time you get to play at home, you get a little advantage. When our fans come in, hopefully they’ll be louder than theirs and we’ll perform for them Friday night. We’re going to try to prove everybody wrong and come out on top.”
Perez leads San Benito with four receiving touchdowns and has accumulated 200 yards on 15 receptions. He’s one half of a dynamic receiver duo, along with senior Jermaine Corbin, that helps the Greyhounds shake things up.
San Benito is averaging 32 points per game, heavily helped by a strong run game with nearly 1,500 yards in tow. Sophomore running back Fabian Garcia carries the lion’s share in the backfield, and junior quarterback Rodney Rodriguez has been solid leading the unit.
Perez said the Greyhounds play fast offensively, which helps the young group do damage. He’s expecting Harlingen High to stack the box to try and stop the run, so he’ll be ready to make plays and help his team pick up a win.
“Our coach always tells us, ‘When the ball comes your way, you have to be the playmaker.’ And even if it doesn’t come our way, we still have to execute,” Perez said. “Our speed, our tempo, is good. I feel like we’ve improved a lot. … It’s going to be very loud, and it’s going to be something different. It’s not like no other game. Your adrenaline is high and, I don’t know how to explain it, you just have to be there.”
San Benito’s defense has been tough, holding opponents to a low average of 12.67 points per game. Mireles, Mauricio Padilla, Mariano Garcia and Nova Bejaran have been some of the defensive standouts.
Mireles will be playing in his first BOTA on Friday, and he’s excited to join the rich tradition of the rivalry. He said this season has taught the Greyhounds how to play for each other and believes they’re “in a groove and we’re rolling” as they head into this game, striving for victory.
“We know they’re going to come out swinging. We just have to take it and swing right back,” Mireles said. “(On defense), we all communicate, we fly to the ball, we’re all on the same page. Violence, straight violence. We come out ready to play every Friday night.”