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Last year, the Mission Eagles opened their season with impressive victories over San Antonio Holy Cross and their cross-town rivals, Veterans Memorial High School. Sadly for Eagles fans, those turned out to be their only two victories of the season as they ended the 2011 football season with a 2 -8 record.
Fortunately for Eagles fans, players and coaches what happened in 2011 stays in 2011. So why should 2012 be any different? One reason is as a result of the UIL’s recent realignment, the Mission Eagles are now back in 4A after a two-year stint as a barely 5A school.
As a result, the Eagles will no longer have to play powerhouse 5A teams such as the Sharyland Rattlers and the McAllen Memorial Mustangs. Even so, Eagles Head Coach Mario Peña and his coaching staff have their work cut out for them if they are going to turn things around in one year as they did in 2009 when they inherited a 4-8 team and won an outright district championship their very first season at Mission.
Now his fourth year as head football coach and athletic coordinator at Mission High School and his 34th year of coaching altogether, Peña has surrounded himself with a coaching staff he is very pleased to have.
“I’ve made some acquisitions that I’m really happy about,” said Peña. “My first assistant head coach and special teams coordinator is Tony Alvarez who’s been with me for 10 or 12 years. I hired Gary Lauer as my offensive coordinator. He was the head football coach and athletic coordinator at Nikki Rowe for a good number of years. I promoted Travis Hardy to the defensive coordinator position.”
Other coaches Peña has his hired to be on his staff include Leonel Casas, former athletic director in Mission and former head football coach at La Joya and at Mercedes, Jesse Salinas, former offensive coordinator at Edinburg Economedes High School, and Cruz Gaitan, former defensive coordinator at Economedes and at Rio Grande City.
Another reason the 2012 Mission Eagles could turn things around is they have seven starters returning on offense and seven starters returning on defense.
“Experience is going to help us,” said Peña. “Our players have made a commitment. Right now they’re working out on their own with no coaches there. They want to win. They want to win.”
Among the starters that are returning for the Eagles are George Gonzalez (DB), Sergio Guerrero (WR/DB), Ray Osorio (DB), Nick Garza (WR/DB), Randy de la Garza (DL/RB), Erick Flores (LB), Steven Cavazos (DL), Adonis Juarez (RB/LB), Albert Roque (LB), Sabas Garcia (DL), Andrik Tijerina (DL), Jorge Martinez (RB/LB), Andy Solis (WR/DB), Jose Serrato (OL) and Raul de la Cruz (OL).
Senior starting quarterback Juan Rios is also among the Eagles returning in 2012.
“We have a different system for him and there are going to be different coaches coaching him,” said Peña. “He went through a hard time a year ago, but he had a great summer with the seven-on-seven and he’s coming back.”
As for how the Eagles are predicted to do this year, Peña does not concern himself over the polls.
“I don’t pay any attention to preseason polls,” said Peña. “I know that Dave Campbell has us at #4 behind Mercedes, Edcouch Elsa and Rio Grande City. I always tell our players, “You don’t play football games on paper.” Bottom line is it’s not where you are at the beginning of the season it’s where you are at the end of the season that matters.”
Peña is confident that his Eagles will be at the top of the district at the end of the 2012 season.
“There’s no doubt that I feel we’re going to compete for the district title. I feel that good. If I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t have any business coaching. Definitely that’s our goal, to bring the district title back to Mission.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.