POSTSEASON FIXTURES SET FOR ALL

Take a long look at his lineup out there, and it starts to seem awfully small. With super young faces back and front. But Coach Elias Moran has done perhaps his best coaching job ever with the 2019 Cougars, turning a callow and inexperienced crew into a playoff combatant.

North jumped on visiting Weslaco for three huge goals in the first five minutes Wednesday, cruising to a 5-0 victory that lifted the program a point clear of Weslaco East and into the postseason, where vaunted power Brownsville Rivera will be waiting.

The 32-6A champ is not of the same quality of the team that won a state title a few years back but it is still good, and still Rivera. But Moran, who got two eventual goals from Axel Loera and a quick PK strike from Roberto Ruiz in the opening ticks Wednesday, will not be unduly concerned. He just continues to mold his group of small but fast newbies day by day, without the benefit of past veteran athletes such as Azael de Leon and Esteban Lopez. Those big, strong kids helped the program to the state’s final eight back in 2017, but now Moran is mega-teaching every day, taking a youthful bunch a step at a time. Don’t count the Coogs out in bi-district, because they are starting to play like veterans who understand what to do and when.

Meanwhile, EHS and Econ are also in the playoffs, the Bobcats on the strength of defender Emmanuel Duron and a fast and sweet-touch attacking contingent. Econ was in range of a title before a late three-game losing streak, but has the pedigree of long-time prowess, plus some outstanding senior kids who are looking to make a playoff run in their swan song season.

The schedule says: Hanna at EHS Thursday, with Rivera at North and Econ at Harlingen South Friday. Hanna was third in 32-6A while South came second; the Hawks clinched their seed with a late-season 4-3 victory over the Eagles and have been one of the more successful offensive sides in the district. Hanna seems to keep things close as indicated by no fewer draws in 10 league games; the Eagles went 1-3 in those extra-time matches.

 

GIRLS PLAYOFFS LOOMING

North, champion of 31-6A for consecutive seasons, will face Harlingen in bi-district, an opponent that appears to be ripe for the taking, with some injury issues that led to a no. 4 seed for the Lady Cardinals. But history records that generally the Lower Valley league has held the upper hand, so to say, against 31-6A, in the playoffs.

While their defense has been phenomenal in 2019, allowing just seven goals in 12 league nights, the Lady Cougars have had to scratch for goals at the other end of the pitch. Outside of a 16-goal explosion over two games against Econ, North netted 17 goals in the other 10 tries, for 1.7 per match. Harlingen tallied nine goals in two wins over San Benito, but during the rest of the slate averaged just under two per night, meaning that the bi-district clash between the two might come down to one goal total.

As for the task awaiting Vela, the Hanna Lady Eagles have a solid 12-6-1 mark this season with a pair of impressive non-league wins against 5A power Pace, but they lost to Pharr North and Juarez-Lincoln (no shame there) before going through 32-6A to claim third. Hanna lost twice to Los Fresnos and twice to South but has a good squad overall.

The Lady SaberCats have at times been a prolific offensive machine, with 47 goals in 12 games, but their defense is vastly underrated. For the district season the Vela D surrendered just five goals as its keeper tandem of Joanna Corona and Ashley de la Cruz has been sound.

Hanna will have to come ready to shoot and score, and one wonders if the Lady Eagles, averaging about two goals a match, can stay with the touch-and-run second place side from 31-6A. The upshot is that for the first time in many campaigns, the Middle League, 31-6A, stands a good chance of getting some playoff victories.

Finally, EHS is in the mix, and will get a challenge from 32-6A champ Los Fresnos. The Lady Bobcats dropped a PK showdown against Donna North to fall to No. 4 seed, but this youthful team of aggressive fliers is not going to back down. They draw a Lady Falcon unit that has been a regional tourney qualifier in several recent seasons, but is perhaps a step behind the previous sides. Los Fresnos does boast one of the top defensive groups in the Valley, with an average goal yield of less than one per match.

The Vela-Hanna game is down in Brownsville Saturday, a day after EHS hosts Los Fresnos. North will be at Harlingen for bi-district.