LA FERIA — Last season, the La Feria Lions didn’t like sharing the District 16-4A Division I championship.
At 7:30 tonight, La Feria (6-1, 3-0) plays host to Hidalgo (3-4, 1-1), the team with which it shared the title in 2020. The Lions are confident they’ll be securing the district championship outright and with an undefeated district record with a victory in their regular-season finale.
“We feel pretty great with our game plan. We’re coming in really strong because of what happened last year,” senior defensive back Elijah Vela said. “We didn’t want to share it last year, and we don’t want to share it this year. We’re for sure going to get it for ourselves this year. It would mean a lot, going out No. 1 in the district and undefeated in district, especially in my senior year.”
Vela is part of a talented senior class setting the example for the young Lions this season. He leads the team in tackles and interceptions. He took on a leadership role because of the inexperience the roster had, and his guidance has helped the Lions become a solid unit.
“Half these guys really were new to varsity, and I had games under my belt from last year, so helping them getting used to it was my job,” Vela said. “We can depend on each other. Causing turnovers (is a strength of the defense). As of right now, our secondary has, like, 10 interceptions. Our turnovers help give the ball back to our offense so we can score.”
Leading the high-powered La Feria offense is senior quarterback Aaron Trevino. Since the 7-on-7 season over the summer, Trevino has been building chemistry with the plethora of playmakers on the roster. All the work in the offseason has paid off, resulting in La Feria averaging 46 points per game.
“It’s a lot about tempo, keeping the offense moving and making sure we’re all doing what we’re assigned to do, making reads,” Trevino said. “We’re a real explosive team. At the beginning of the season, I feel like I wasn’t really doing my best or what I was capable of. As the season went on, I really found my rhythm.”
Trevino has long wanted to be the leader for a team, and he’s made the most out of that opportunity this season. He has surpassed 1,000 passing yards, is the No. 2 rusher and leads the team in touchdowns scored. He sets the standard for La Feria with his stellar performances.
“It’s been a dream of mine to lead a team and be the captain of my team,” Trevino said. “This year it’s a lot of younger guys that haven’t really been on varsity, so they look up to me, so it’s about being a role model. Say we get down in a game, I have to keep my head up and make sure the guys are still going.”
The Lions had concerns about depth and inexperience during the preseason. But plenty of players have stepped up throughout the season, including freshman starting linebacker Andrew Rivera and sophomore running back Zion Dickerson.
Dickerson has done well in his role as La Feria’s leading rusher, maturing and improving quickly and consistently. He believes the offense’s speed is a strength that keeps the unit successful.
“I’ve been pretty all right,” Dickerson said. “(I’ve been) practicing harder, being focused. It’s a lot of pressure. I got to do good. My athleticism helps.”
La Feria coach Oscar Salinas wants his team to be aggressive to counter Hidalgo’s physical play. The Lions are prepared to see a lot of rushing and to be challenged by the Pirates. Salinas said the team has been working hard, knowing what’s on the line, and believes the mentality La Feria has will give it an edge.
“(Hidalgo is) a power-running team, well-coached team, a very big football team. We’ve prepared ourselves mentally to play a physical game and go all out every play,” Salinas said. “These kids have Lion pride. They believe every game that they have a chance to win. They go out with a lot of confidence, and they play as hard as they can.”
Salinas thanked the La Feria community for the consistent support it has showed the Lions this season. He hopes there will be a big crowd in attendance tonight to cheer on the team and the senior class as they battle in Lions Stadium for potentially the last time. Trevino and Vela hope to cap their careers by continuing La Feria’s winning ways.
“We’ve made (winning district) a repeat thing,” Trevino said. “It’s a tradition that we’re trying to keep going, so it’ll be real big for me and all these seniors to win.”