It all seems the same, with the swagger of a winner and the big plays to turn the tide of the game. But as the Edinburg Landsharks ready for their annual foray into the semi-pro football playoffs, there are some issues they need to iron out.
The Sharks improved to 8-0 with a 33-6 victory over the Kingsville Vikings Saturday at Cats Stadium, but weaknesses in the offensive line and secondary should give the long-time local dynasty some cause for concern.
Three times the Sharks had offensive drives stopped by quarterback sacks by the Vikings, a short-handed unit that nonetheless had its moments. On the other side of the ball, the Edinburg DBs dropped four interceptions and were beaten deep on a handful of up-for-grabs throws. Now the team hopes that with two games left in the regular season, it can muster the same effort it has had in the past.
Receiver Kalani Jaime, who caught two touchdown passes Saturday from Renato Nunez, noted that due to scheduling quirks and cancellations, the Landsharks hadn’t played for three weeks, leading to some rustiness.
“That first series, I was really dead out there, it took some time to get back into it,” said Jaime, who hauled in a 37-yard strike from Nunez at 12:21 of the first period. Nunez was 17 of 30 for 240 yards and three scores, while linebacker Sergio Rojas added a 67-yard interception return for a score late in the second quarter. Edinburg led 25-6 at the break.
The Sharks made a number of their patented game-changers on defense, including Rojas’ dash down the left sideline and a 50-yard punt return from Brandon Highsmith that set up a late field goal before the half.
End Bernie Luna enjoyed a tremendous game, with 2 1/2 sacks, a fumble recovery, and a 16-yard reception on a fourth-down fake punt in the second half. But Edinburg had a miserable time trying to run the ball, gaining just seven total yards on 25 carries. That, and the misplays in the deep backfield on defense showed that the team has some work to do before the postseason.
Veteran defensive tackle Joe Frank Alonzo suggests that though the Landshark talent level is as good as it’s even been, there are still some strides to make, chemistry-wise.
“I don’t know, there’s just something missing lately,” said Alonzo, part of the state championship team of 2006. “We always have the mindset that we are going to win, it’s just a matter of when and how. Some of the teams in the past were not as stacked with talent as this one, but they had the right mindset and togetherness. We’re still working on those aspects this season.”
Still, this is a formidable squad, with the league’s best receiving corps and defensive stars like Luna, Frank Fuentes and tackle Jaime Hinojosa making the front four a superb group. Rangy Shedrick Dallas led the way on offense Saturday, grabbing nine balls for 102 yards. Jaime and Dallas, with Bryon Gonzalez and a host of others, can all go get the ball, while Nunez has a strong arm plus consistent accuracy.
But without linebacker Mike Martinez and corner Omar Trevino, sidelined with injuries all season, the Sharks have struggled at times on defense. They allowed Kingsville to drive into their territory four times in the second half, and luckily were able to come up with key stops at the right time.
The league-leading Sharks have two games left, with Corpus Christi at home next weekend and then on the road against second-place Brownsville, whose only loss came to Edinburg earlier in the year.
Then there is the playoff run, where the stakes get higher and the teams get better. Shoring up a leaky line on offense and integrating new starters on defense, the Sharks still want to make a run at another state title.
“We still have a lot of experienced guys who have been through it all,” said Alonzo. “So, we’re trying to improve some things before the playoffs get here.”
NOTES: Edinburg gained 247 total yards with 19 first downs, while Kingsville picked up 141 and 12. Linebacker Richard Dillard had a fumble recovery and an interception as the Sharks forced five turnovers.
Former Econ star Ryan Richardson will open his training facility, Elite Sports Performance, this week. The building is located at 1101 E. Dallas in McAllen and Richardson will trail athletes of all ages in strength and conditioning, along with basic football skills.
The Jag ex is excited about the grand opening of his business, and invites kids to come check out the equipment and setup. Call 648-0225 for details.