PHARR — It didn’t take long for this year’s PSJA North team to come up with a motivating motto for the 2021 season.

“Unfinished business” has been the driving force and factor behind the Raiders’ success.

The fitting phrase comes from experiencing a lost opportunity at the end of the 2020 season after PSJA North (9-2, 6-2) earned a spot in the area round of the playoffs, but were forced to forfeit its second-round game due to COVID-19 concerns.

Nearly one year later, PSJA North and its 17 returning starters have fought their way back to the area round for a shot to take what they believe is theirs — another playoff victory and a spot in the regional quarterfinals. PSJA North is slated to face Eagle Pass (8-3, 5-1) in a Region IV-6A DII area round matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Shirley Field in Laredo.

“We’re finally here. It felt like it was never going to get here,” senior middle linebacker John Castro said. “Since last year when we got eliminated because of COVID issues, it’s been ‘unfinished business.’ Everyday we come in to work and that was always the end goal, get back here to the second round and get that gold ball we felt we were supposed to get last year.”

The Raiders punched their ticket to the area round for the second straight year by taking down an unbeaten District 32-6A champion for the second straight year.

PSJA North went on the road last week and stunned previously unbeaten Harlingen South, the No. 2 team in the latest top 10 poll, by a score of 56-26.

PSJA North’s Jack Lugo (7) carries the ball against Edcouch-Elsa defender Marlin Barco (36) in a non-district game at PSJA Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The Raiders racked up over 600 yards of total offense led by 200-yard performances from Isaac Gonzalez and Jack Lugo, who also scored six touchdowns. Lugo also recorded a sack, a quarterback hurry and one tackle as a pass rusher.

“We all kind of heard that we were underdogs going into that game, and we don’t like to look at ourselves as underdogs going into anything. We went in there and were ready to shock everybody,” Lugo said. “I’m a big team player, so whether they need me to run the ball 40 times or rush the passer to get a couple sacks, I’m willing to do it all.”

Now, the Raiders are set for a second-round test against Eagle Pass. The Eagles finished as runner-ups in District 29-5A and topped San Antonio Marshall 54-51 in overtime during the bi-district round.

“We got to where we were, now we got to get past it,” sophomore defensive back Leeroy Palacios said.

“‘Unfinished business’ was the motto all offseason, it was really drilled into our heads,” Lugo said. “Going into this next game, it’s fight, fight, fight to get into the third round.”

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