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20110916_football_Patriots_v_Hidalgo_lg_026Both the Veterans Memorial Patriots and the Juarez-Lincoln Huskies find themselves in a crisis of identity early on in this 2011 football season. Their Friday night match-up in La Joya will go a long way toward giving both programs a sense of just where they stand and what they’ll have to face after two weeks that haven’t necessarily gone their way.

The winless Huskies are coming off an absolute thumping by Weslaco East last week after giving up over 400 yards rushing and 122 yards passing in their last game. Juarez-Lincoln looked completely overmatched and somewhat aimless in their first conference game. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they’ve looked so throughout their young season. In their first three games the Huskies have scored just 17 points while giving up 116.

The stats are deceptive however as Juarez-Lincoln has suffered from a couple stretches of bad luck and, in last week’s game, suffered from lining up against a running back who just happened to have a career day as Weslaco East’s Aaron Munguia racked up 296 yards on 30 attempts.

This week, the Huskies find themselves facing a Veterans Memorial team that has, undeniably, lost much of its offensive firepower.

The Patriots were able to get a win last week against the Hidalgo Pirates but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty as they slid past the Pirates 13-8.

The game was even closer than the score would suggest.

The Pirates fumbled the ball twice inside the Patriot five-yard line in the fourth quarter when a touchdown would have knotted up the game.

Veterans Memorial Coach, and eternal optimist, David Gilpin praises his defense for bending and not breaking in their last game.

“We were backed up against the wall all night,” said Gilpin. “They didn’t punch it in. We came up with turnovers and I’m proud of the fact that the team in her trying to pound the ball and we took them completely out of that. We stopped their running game. It got to the point where basically they were throwing fades and hoping something would happen.”

As for the Patriots offense, with the loss of their All-Valley quarterback Adrian Morales two weeks ago in their game against the Mission Eagles, it has been a challenge to find the end zone and a period of adversity Gilpin points to as a chance to grow.

“Our front line guys are out,” said Gilpin. “These are guys who we expected to produce at the beginning of the year. But the staff and players have just continued to go to work. I told these kids that it’s going to be such a good feeling to get on the bus with a win considering what we’ve been through.”

The Patriots have lost not just Morales but two other starters to concussions and another to a head injury, none of whom will be back in the starting lineup any time soon.

“We’ve [got] one guy playing four positions this year,” said Gilpin. “With where we’re at personnel-wise, we can’t lose another kid or I’m gonna have to suit up.”

Despite the injuries, the Patriots still have the early honor of sitting in first place in district play. Don’t think for a moment though that they feel comfortable about their next match-up.

“Juarez-Lincoln is a well coached football team. I know they’re struggling record-wise,” said Gilpin. “But they are more athletic than I’ve ever seen them. That’s the most athletic Juarez-Lincoln team that I’ve ever seen. They’re a dangerous team and we understand the importance of this football game. We need to win every week while we try to get guys back.”

Morales, who will not be back, can still be found serving his team. During the Patriots last game he paced the sideline exhorting his teammates, calling out tips to those on the field and talking up others on the bench. In a show of solidarity, the Patriots came out at half time walking behind their sidelined superstar.

“I saw the way he conducted himself,” said Gilpin. “He could have sat around and pouted but fortunately, he was right there in the middle of it and helping this team. We always come out at full speed. We decided Adrian’s our guy and that was our way as a staff and team to thank him for everything he’s done.”

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