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20121108 Football Mercedes vs Mission lg-22A Mercedes defender breaks up a pass intended for Mission's Robert Veliz during the first half of the Eagles 23-14 loss to the Tigers. Progress Times photo by Luciano GuerraCoach Mario Peña entered the 2012 season with three goals for his Mission Eagles football team. The first was to make the playoffs. The second was to win the district championship. The third was to have an undefeated season.

Coming off of a 2-8 2011 season, those goals might have seemed to be nothing more than pipe dreams in some peoples’ eyes, but with only one game left in District 32-4A play last week the Eagles were within one win of achieving all three goals. Enter the Mercedes Tigers.

With only one blemish on their district record this year, a 21-7 loss to Edcouch Elsa, the Mercedes Tigers took the field at Tom Landry Stadium last Friday knowing that a share of the District 32-4A title was within their grasp. A win over the 9-0 Eagles would assure the Tigers of a tie atop the district standings with Mission and possibly with Edcouch-Elsa.

Despite an early 7-0 lead for the Eagles, the Tigers capitalized on five Mission turnovers to roar back and claim a 23-14 victory.

“We cannot make the number of mistakes we made against a good football team and expect to win,” said Peña. “We had five turnovers on offense, which is the most we’ve had all year, and Mercedes took advantage of them. Ten of their 23 points came off of turnovers. After we threw an interception they converted it into a field goal. Then we dropped a punt and that drive ended up in a touchdown for them. Those are costly turnovers.

“Ultimately you learn from your mistakes,” said Peña. “The good news is that the mistakes we made are correctable. We just need to clean it up before our bi-district game Friday.”

As of last week, Peña was fully expecting to be facing 3-4 Laredo Nixon tonight in the first round of the state playoffs. However, when 25-point underdog Corpus Christi Miller upset the Corpus Christi Ray Texans last week, Ray became Mission’s bi-district game opponent.

“That was an upset that not very many people expected,” said Peña. “Everybody felt that there’s no way that Miller could beat Ray. That’s why we had made all the preliminary arrangements with Nixon. But that just goes to prove what we’ve always told our kids. That on any given Friday if you’re not ready to play, anybody can definitely upset you.”

While Peña is glad to be opening the playoffs at home, he expects Ray to be a tougher opponent than a fourth place Nixon team.

“They’re a very good and a very well coached team,” said Peña. “We’ve got to play a perfect game, probably the best game that we’ve played all year to be able to win this game.”

As for which skill position players will present the biggest challenge for the Eagles’ defense tonight, Peña referred to his scouting report for the answer.

“Offensively, their quarterback is Marcus Mosley (#10),” said Peña. “Their number one running back Tristen Barrera (#26) and their go-to receiver is Ben Brooks (#14). He’s tall, 6’2” or maybe 6’3”, so we’ll probably have to match George Gonzalez with him because he’s the tallest guy we’ve got. In the slot position they have Matthew Merino (#5) and Armando Garza (#7). They’re very, very big on the offensive line.”

Peña expects Ray’s multiple defensive formations to present a challenge for his Eagles’ offense.

“They’re very tough and very multiple defensively,” said Peña. “I think this will be one of the few teams that we’ve gone up against that will probably be as multiple on defense as we are. That’s something that’s going to be a challenge for our offense.”

Defensively, Peña expects Ray to use the same formula Mercedes used to hold the Eagles to their second lowest point total of the year last week.

“Without a doubt their strong suit is their linebackers,” said Peña. “They’re an attacking defense and they’re going to play a lot of man coverage. They’ve got the Mercedes film and that is what Mercedes did. They played man coverage and did a lot of blitzing.”

One offensive threat Peña hopes to use against Ray is a more mobile quarterback. Recently, the Eagles’ signal caller has been hesitant to run with the ball when his receivers have been covered.

“We’ve told him that he needs to become a double threat,” said Peña.

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