All the guessing is over and now it’s a distinct look to the east for city schools, as the new UIL realignment has moved the teams into direct contention with Weslaco, Weslaco East, and Donna.
The new 31-6A set-up installs the early favorites for toughest sports: softball, football, basketball (girls and boys), and track will be more competitive, while in sports such as soccer, volleyball, and baseball, the Mid-Valley foes are not quite as formidable.
Many observers imagined a switch back to the lineup of 2013 and 2014, when the La Joyas and Sharyland formed the out-of-city group. But realignment always brings surprises.
Now, the Vela football team will get to match wits against Weslaco, coached by Michael Salinas, who built the SaberCat program from the ground up starting 2012. As well, the Cats will face off with Weslaco East, one of the most successful programs of the past decade.
Weslaco girls’ sports drill is top-notch, particularly in track, basketball, and softball, while the Panthers under Coach Gabe Valdez are one of the premier RGV programs running the court. Donna North will pose a challenge in girls’ soccer, as Vela has found out this season, but in most other sports, the Lady Chiefs have not been very successful to date. Adding the North boys to the athletic mix does not appear to form a considerable challenge right now.
LADY JAGS BREAK THE ZIGGY
Econ has been fighting all season long with an inexperienced hoops crew that returns almost all the prime players for next season. And Mari Campos can use Tuesday as a legitimate building block after her girls scraped out a 25-22 victory over P-SJ-A Southwest, the first win in 31-6A for the Lady Jags after 11 successive defeats.
In the other league action last week, EHS continued to rule the roost while Vela and North struggled to attain the final playoff spot. Both suffered setbacks Tuesday to all to 6-6, North against EHS and Vela versus Pharr North. The Lady Sabes then knocked off P-SJ-A Friday – scoring their district high of 70 points – and can clinch the fourth seed by beating Econ Tuesday. North’s loss at home to P-SJ-A Memorial may have been a death knell because if the Lady Coogs defeat the Lady Bears Tuesday, but Vela wins, it’s all over for North.
As for the pending playoffs, EHS headed into Tuesday at 13-0 after clobbering Southwest but faced a difficult clincher against second-place Pharr North, 12-1. A first-place finish would bring a bi-district draw of Los Fresnos, fourth in 32-6A. Second seed would be San Benito, Harlingen or Weslaco, all tied at 11-2 with a game to go. Weslaco, which lost in OT to San Benito Friday, finishes with Los Fresnos while Harlingen tackles San Benito Tuesday.
Any postseason match between 31 and 32 will be difficult for the former as all four Lower Valley squads – with an overall record of 108-35 heading into the weekend – were ranked in the RGV top 10 last week. EHS (No. 1 in the land) and Pharr North (third) appear to be the best bets for a playoff W right now.
Jayla Santa Maria of EHS is certainly headed for All-Valley selection once again and maybe a repeat MVP award, as the senior ranks third in the area for scoring, 13th in rebounds, and 11th in steals. Teammates Bri Sanchez (8.3 rebounds) and Mercy Hernandez (seventh in assists, 13th in steals) are also on the charts. Vela’s Kay Rios is fifth in assists per game and teammate Julia Cordon ranks 10th in steals. At North, Bri Martinez is ninth in steals and Anzhelany Jordan is No. 11 in assists.
BOYS CAGE UPDATE
Vela sits at 10-1, atop 31-6A, with North second at 9-2, EHS and Econ trailing at 8-3 as the season hits its final fortnight. The SaberCats are at Econ Tuesday in an enormous clash while the Bobcats take on Pharr North. Then Friday it’s Vela-North, finishing a huge week for the Blue and Black. Their only district loss came to the Jags, 46-44, back in January but since then Coach David Keith has piloted the club to six wins straight. In their last four outings, the Sabes have averaged 72 points.