Coach David Gilpin is expecting something special this year. Something that has not only eluded him as a head coach but every Veterans Memorial High School football team that has ever taken to the gridiron – a second round playoff win.
Breaking into the third round of the state playoffs has been one of Gilpin’s goals long before his quarterback took his first snap from center this season – a goal that he is determined to see his Patriots achieve this year.
“Our first goal is always to win a district championship,” explained Gilpin. “However after our loss to Edcouch, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. So we set our sights on making the playoffs first, but our ultimate goal of getting past the second round has not changed.”
“We’re no longer going to be satisfied with playing a ranked team tough but still losing in the first or second round,” added Gilpin. “We’ve done that before but as I keep preaching to my players, the time has come for us to win those games and we’re not going to settle for anything less. For us to accomplish something special this year it will have to be something we’ve never done before and a second round win is what it’s going to take.”
While talk of a second round playoff win may seem a bit premature when the Patriots have a first round bi-district game to play tonight, Gilpin is by no means looking past tonight’s opponent the Laredo Martin Tigers. He’s simply doing what he needs to do to instill a “failure is not an option” mentality in his players that they will need if they are going to take that next step and achieve playoff success beyond the first round.
“Two of three years that we played Flour Bluff, they were state ranked,” shared Gilpin. “Last year they were 10-0, ranked 11th in the state, and we gave them all they could handle. In my first year as a head coach here they were ranked in the top 10 and we went into the fourth quarter with them tied 35-35. The following year we went to Flour Bluff and beat them. So I what I’m after now is the mentality of not being satisfied with playing well but coming up just short.”
The Patriots’ first step in achieving their ambitious goal comes in the form of a bi-district game at Shirley Field in Laredo tonight against a Laredo Martin team that found success this year after five consecutive 2-8 seasons.
“Historically, Laredo Martin has struggled,” explained the Patriots head coach. “They’ve had a coaching change though and within 10 minutes of watching the film I knew that they had a good football team. They may only be 6-4 but they lost to Flour Bluff and Alice who are two of the top teams in south Texas. They also lost to Corpus Christi Ray who is in the playoffs as well.”
“They are a different ball club than they have been,” added Gilpin. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Charles over there and what he’s doing and I told him that. Just on film you can see the culture and the mentality of the team and how it has changed. This is not the Laredo Martin of old that’s for sure.”
Having lost his all-district junior quarterback Santos Villarreal to a season-ending injury against Mission three weeks ago, Gilpin will be counting on senior Rolando “R. J.” De Leon to continue his winning ways as the Patriots’ starting signal caller. In the two plus games De Leon has played behind center he has completed 40 passes in 73 attempts for 505 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. The Patriots have won both games De Leon has started.
“R.J. has done a remarkable job of stepping into a difficult situation,” said Gilpin. “He spent last year backing up Santos and he didn’t get to play very much at all. This being his senior year we wanted to utilize his abilities so he’s been starting for us as a receiver, which meant that he wasn’t getting the reps at quarterback during practices. Then when we lost Santos, he had to come in cold against Mission and while he did struggle against the Eagles he has shown remarkable improvement since then.”
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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.