Weslaco High defender Alexis Munoz (94) celebrates after recovering a Los Fresnos fumble in a 32-6A zone play-in game at Bobby Lackey Stadium on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Weslaco. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The Valley’s eight best Class 6A teams this season will duel head-to-head in a series of four bi-district round matchups that will pit the top teams from both District 31-6A and District 32-6A against one another.

Headlining the quartet of Valley-versus-Valley bi-district playoff matchups is one of two Class 6A Division II Texas high school football games being played in the Rio Grande Valley this weekend between the Edinburg Vela SaberCats (5-0) and the Weslaco High Panthers in the only playoff matchup between two Hidalgo County squads so far this season.

The teams have split their last two meetings with one another and both bring a pair of vaunted defenses into this contest. Vela and Weslaco are two of only five Class 6A teams in the Rio Grande Valley giving up an average of fewer than 210.0 yards of total offense per game this season

The SaberCats enter this game after clinching their third unbeaten regular-season finish in the program’s nine-year history, the second in the last three seasons, with a 24-7 win over previously unbeaten Mission High in the 31-6A championship game. Vela has yet to trail an opponent in a game at any point this season and has outscored its opponents 196-52 through five games.

The Panthers, meanwhile, enter this contest riding a two-game winning streak after beating Donna North and then Los Fresnos in their 32-6A zone play-in game to get back to the postseason. Weslaco has played a handful of close games but still managed to outscore its opposition 121-77 during the regular season.

The Edinburg Vela SaberCats, the top-ranked team in the RGVSports.com Top 10 Poll, will host the Weslaco High Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.

Edinburg Vela’s Austin Carrillo(3) gets past Mission’s defender Angel Saldana (8) during the 1st half of a 31-6A District game at Richard R. Flores Stadium on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Edinburg. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

HANNA, PSJA NORTH HOPING TO REPLICATE 2018 SUCCESS

The Brownsville Hanna Golden Eagles (3-0), co-champions of District 32-6A and winners of its east zone, will host the PSJA North Raiders (4-3) in the second of two Valley-versus-Valley matchups in the Class 6A DII bi-district playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at Sams Memorial Stadium in Brownsville.

This matchup between Hanna and PSJA North represents a pair of teams who enjoyed bi-district playoff victories in the Class 6A playoffs in 2018 but found themselves on the outside looking in by narrow margins in District 32-6A and 30-6A, respectively.

But now the Golden Eagles and Raiders are both back and will face one another for the right to advance to the area round and out of the RGV.

PSJA North’s offense is led by District 31-6A’s leading rusher in junior back Isaac Gonzalez, who is also of the Valley’s leading rushers this season and one of the RGV’s premier power backs, and freshman quarterback Ale Aparicio, who emerged from an early-season QB battle as one the leading newcomers of the year across South Texas and the sparkplug of the Raiders offense.

Hanna’s offense, which has proven itself in crunch-time more than once in a shortened season, is led by the dynamic senior duo of quarterback Diego Escovar and wideout Ryan Trinidad, two of 32-6A’s leading passers and pass-catchers, respectively.

This game should remain close throughout, as Hanna and PSJA North also enter this game with two of the Rio Grande Valley’s hardest-hitting defenses.

Mission’s receiver Jose Cortez (1) looks back to catch a pass battles PSJA North defender Oscar Garcia (33) in the first half of a high school football game at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Mission. Cortez caught the ball and scored on a 40-yard scamper. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

MISSION, SAN BENITO TO SQUARE OFF IN OLD-FASHIONED VALLEY SHOWDOWN

The Mission High Eagles (4-1), who enter this game as champions of District 31-6A’s south zone, will host the San Benito Greyhounds (3-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium in Mission in one of two Valley-versus-Valley Class 6A Division I bi-district round playoff games.

The Eagles enter coming off their first loss of the season to Vela, while the Greyhounds come into this one after a resounding victory over Harlingen South in their 32-6A zone play-in game.

Mission boasts the top offense in 31-6A and one of the district’s top two defenses as well. The Eagles, who are led by junior quarterback Jeremy Duran and running backs Andrew Maldonado and Damian Cortez offensively, were one of the highest-scoring squads across the RGV in the regular season until a 7-point outing against the SaberCats last week.

They’ll look to rebound against San Benito, one of the better defenses in a deep District 32-6A that nearly handed Harlingen and Hanna their first losses of the season. The Greyhounds are led offensively by dual-threat senior quarterback Elijah Hernandez but will be without senior running back Kyler Castijella in this game due to injury.

That should set the scene for a defensive slugfest between two of the Valley’s oldest and biggest football powers. Mission enters with the Rio Grande Valley’s top defense in terms of yards allowed per game and neither side has surrendered more than 24 points in a game during regulation this season.

HARLINGEN TO HOST EDINBURG NORTH IN BI-DISTRICT TILT

The final Valley-versus-Valley matchup of the opening weekend of the Class 5A-6A Texas high school football playoffs is the second of two 6A DI bi-district playoff games between the Harlingen High Cardinals (5-0) and the Edinburg North Cougars (2-4) at 7 p.m. Friday at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen.

Harlingen, District 32-6A co-champions, rolled to a perfect regular-season finish and 32-6A west zone title thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback at Weslaco, a blowout of Donna North and a shutout win in the Bird Bowl over crosstown rival Harlingen South.

The Cardinals have only scored more than 30 points in a game once this season against Donna North, but they haven’t had to behind the strength of one of the Valley’s most dominant defenses. Few teams have had success scoring on Harlingen or moving the ball consistently.

Edinburg North, meanwhile, enters this game making the program’s second consecutive trip to the 6A playoffs but also riding a three-game losing streak after dropping games to Edinburg High, Vela and PSJA North in recent weeks.

The Cougars ran into some difficulties at quarterback a few weeks ago when the injury bug bit in a game against the Bobcats, but Edinburg North’s offensive appeared to be as good as ever this season in its regular-season finale against PSJA North, a 30-22 loss.

Edinburg North, however, boasts one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most experienced defenses with nine starters returning from a playoff team a season ago. Despite their injury woes, the Cougars match up favorably against the Cardinals.

With both teams’ strengths and weaknesses matching one another, Edinburg North and Harlingen High could find themselves, too, in a defensive standstill.

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