They're still a winning team, gunning for a playoff berth again. And there are still some super athletes out there, including a newcomer from EHS whom the coach calls "the real deal, a beast." But the Landsharks seem to be in transition mode right now.
Longtime leader Joe Ramirez led his team into battle for the seventh time this season, Saturday at Cats Stadium, and Edinburg improved to 6-1 with a 44-20 win over Corpus Christi, a victory that probably sealed a first-round playoff bye.
But many of the names fans have come to know through the years have gone. No more Renato Nunez, the tall tosser at QB, and several other notables have also moved on. There are a number of teams in the Valley now, including in Rio Grande City, Sharyland, and Mission, to go with Brownsville.
"We are definitely still good, and we're having fun," said Ramirez recently. "Next year the state championship is going to be in Edinburg, so that's a good recruiting tool. We are looking to add a lot of new guys. Having three teams so close to town has robbed us of some of the depth we used to have. But we still think we can make some noise this year in the playoffs."
Two new fellows have made a splash this season, Matt Munoz of North and David Guevara of EHS. The former was a record-setting All-Valley QB for the Coogs, the latter an All-State linebacker for the Bobcats. Guevara in particular has been awesome, says his coach.
"He makes plays all over the field," said the veteran Ramirez, who has been pressed into duty at center along with his usual entrepreneurial job. "He is just a great football player, I think he's the best linebacker we have ever had."
Guevara is part of the LB corps including veteran Nick Carpenter and former Econ standout Mariano Garza. The defense has been a strong point, with another ex Jag, 275-pound Jaime Hinojosa, holding down his spot at tackle. Hinojosa is one of the quickest big men in the league, a real impact player on the line with his smooth skills.
In the secondary, there are a number of holdovers but also some new faces, including Jordan Duffy, who's built like a prizefighter and holds down a corner, with holler guy Randy Johnson back for his fourth season at safety.
Offensively, Edinburg is relying on the running game more these days because most of the great receivers from past years are gone. Shedric Dallas, Kalani Jaime, and Marco Guzman are no longer with the team. Bryon Gonzalez, an exciting offensive performer, has moved to defense this season.
"We're still near the top of our division, and we should be able to win some games in the playoffs," said Ramirez, noting that the only loss this season was to the always tough San Antonio Warriors. The Sharks play that group on the road next week. "The game scores have been closer than in the past, but we're still doing well."
SHARKS BLAST CORPUS WITH LATE FIRST-HALF RUSH
Saturday the Sharks got some competition early from the Bonecrusher, and held a narrow lead at 16-14 until scoring a couple of times inside the last two minutes of the first half.
Munoz threw for 184 yards and four TDs, while the run defense limited Corpus to seven yards on 29 carries.
Brownsville product Reggie Clark caught a pair of nice deep balls for six, while former EHS runner Jaime Sauceda made a tremendous over-the-shoulder grab for another. City veteran Casey Martinez also found the end zone, on a 15-yard strike over the middle after a superb read by Munoz.
Martinez' score came after a short punt from Corpus against the wind set the Landsharks up 35 yards away. Moments later Johnson picked off a pass in Bonecrusher territory, setting up a short blast from bruising Elias Reyes at 0:21 of the half, giving the home side a 32-14 advantage.
For the night Edinburg collected 20 first downs and 349 yards, while CC got eight and 153. Munoz did throw three interceptions, but he ran well at times, and connected on the successful long one enough times to offset the windy conditions.