As he prepared to get back to work Monday, Stevie Guerrero was feeling a little frustrated. He’d had no intention of letting a turf toe injury sideline him for Edinburg’s third game of the 2010 football season, Sept. 9. But “just watch” he did as his teammates went over to McAllen and upset the Memorial Mustangs, 27-16.
Now, with the biggest game of the year, and probably in years, on the radar, the senior quarterback is ready to get off the bench and into the heat: It’s Edinburg versus Harlingen Friday night at Cats Stadium. Before he discussed the mountain to climb, Guerrero rendered his usual praise for someone else.
“I was ready to play Thursday, but the coaches didn’t want to risk it,” said “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” who led Edinburg to two victories before sitting out. “But even with me out, they did well, and that’s the thing. It’s not about one guy on this team, it doesn’t matter, and that shows we have a good team.”
Sophomore Alex Cantu stood in for the veteran passer, and according to the headliner, his understudy was terrific.
“He made very few mistakes, only a couple, and I think overall he did great,” said Guerrero, after Cantu fired two TD passes, the second giving the ‘Cats the lead for good in the third quarter. “For a sophomore to step in and do what he did, well, it was big for us.”
Guerrero tossed for three TDs of his own against La Joya in the opener and then ran well against McAllen High Sept. 3 before getting hurt in the second period of a 30-16 triumph. Now he will return to practice and get ready for the toughest task of his career.
Harlingen is 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Valley, a fairly regular occurrence for that storied program in recent times. The Cards have pounded Brownsville Lopez, Corpus Christi Carroll and San Benito despite heavy graduation losses, and Guerrero said that any time it’s Harlingen, it’s going to be difficult.
“This is Valley high school football at its best,” he said. “I keep hearing rumors that it might be a sellout. Harlingen is a good football team, very good, but there’s not a bone in my body that thinks we can’t beat them. It’s going to be an awesome atmosphere Friday night.”
The Bobcats have seen Harlingen on film and will spend the week working toward trying to contain its team speed and game-breaking ability.
“They do have a lot of speed, on defense, but so do we, so I think we’ll be OK there,” Guerrero noted. “They have several weapons on offense and good size, though they’re not monsters, not that big. We definitely feel we can win this game.”
This marquee matchup at Cats Stadium offers a shot for the Bobcat program to make a huge statement in 2010. The ‘Cats have moved into a tie for No. 3 in the Valley after their 3-0 start, and would love to kick off 31-5A play with what would have to be considered a fairly major upset. Last year EHS returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005, when ironically it lost to the Redbirds in bi-district. The ‘Cats beat Brownsville Hanna in bi-district in 2009 before dropping a hard-fought tilt against Del Rio in area.
“I’ve had a week to rest and I really want to play,” said Guerrero, who said he’ll be 100 percent by Friday. “In a way, it’s good that we had the off week, we will have had two weeks to prepare for Harlingen. On the other hand it was a bug bummer for me to miss the Memorial game, I hated sitting out.”
The Bobcats and Cardinals are old friends, having played each other 71 times all told, and having orbited in and out of the same district several times. The Cards hold a distinct 47-18-6 edge in the series that dates back to 1923, when Edinburg pounded the Redbirds, 53-0.
That series count includes Harlingen wins in the last eight meetings between the two, with the last EHS edge coming in 2000, 20-16 in the area round of the playoffs. As stated, the two also faced off in the 2005 bi-district round, with Harlingen scoring a 21-13 decision.
Edinburg’s two best runs against the powerful Cards came from 1959 to 1964, when they took four of six, and 1982-1987, when they were 5-2. Sandwiched in between those successful skeins was a 0-10 drought from 1972 to 1981.
Last year, Harlingen dominated the Bobcats 39-0 at Boggus Stadium en route to the 31-5A title and a 12-0 run that ended with a loss to Austin Westlake in the third round of the postseason.