EL PASO- Two rival schools separated by less than five miles face off Friday night at Conquest Stadium in El Paso as the Del Valle Conquistadores (2-1, 1-0) host the Ysleta Indians (1-2, 0-1) in a District 2-5A clash for the Battle of the Lower Valley, which is the southeast side of the city adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border.
It’s a rivalry that may not have been around as long as others in the Sun City, but both sides know how important this game is.
“This game is always a big deal,” said Del Valle junior quarterback Ray Montez, “We went to middle school with a lot of these guys (from Ysleta) and they’re all right here in our backyard.”
“It’s a big game for us because it’s the next game on our schedule and we need to get that district win,” said Ysleta head coach Joe Martinez, “For the community, it’s about pride and playing well.”
That pride was on full display last season when the two teams faced off in front of a sell-out crowd last year at Ysleta’s Hutchins Stadium. The Indians were undefeated heading into that game but Del Valle snapped their streak with a 37-26 victory. Montez called it “the biggest game he’s ever played in” and the Ysleta players say that was still one of the most memorable games they’ve played.
“The crowd last season was amazing,” said Ysleta junior running back Ozzy Araiza, “It’s not every day you see a stadium like Hutchins Stadium sell out like that.”
The series shifts to Del Valle, where the Conquistadores are 2-1 but have had their fair share of strange events at their games this season. The team has dealt with lightning delays in games against Americas and Horizon and head coach Jesse Perales admits that it’s thrown his team out of rhythm at times. That said, he feels that his team has handled the circumstances well.
“I think we’re in a great place mentally,” Perales said, “We’re ready to go and excited to play our rival.”
Montez and senior running back Adrian Vazquez will lead the offense, but it’s been the defense who has stepped up for the Conquistadores, pitching shutouts in both wins this season.
“We’ve been very explosive so far as a unit,” said senior linebacker Oscar Rodriguez, “We fly to the ball and don’t take a play off. We give our best effort on every single play.”
Meanwhile, the Indians are trying to bounce back after falling to Hanks 33-25 in the District 2-5A opener. At 1-2, they haven’t quite found that success then they did at this time last year, but they know that the potential is there to bounce back.
“We just have to trust in ourselves and our coaches,” Araiza said, “The coaches put us in the best position to win and it’s a team effort. If we have that trust, we should be set.”
As for head coach Joe Martinez, he knows the team has to force turnovers and sustain drives in order to give them a chance to win and does see the potential to bounce back from last week’s loss.
“The potential is there but the mistakes are killing us,” Martinez said, “We shoot ourselves in the foot too much and I’ve told the kids we need to clean those up. Del Valle’s a good team and if we take care of what we need to, then I think we have a shot to win this game.”
This game also has extra motivation for the senior class at Ysleta, who have not defeated Del Valle since 2008.
“It’s the Battle of the Lower Valley,” said senior offensive lineman Alex Rodriguez, “I’ve been here three years and we still haven’t gotten the win. I’m really looking forward to this game and I want to make the best of it.”
As for the favored Conquistadores, Perales is imploring that his team takes care of business on Friday night.
“I try to tell them we can’t worry about Ysleta; we have to worry about us,” he said, “It’s a rivalry game but we still have to prepare as hard as we can and get these guys ready to play. It’s a challenge we are accepting and hopefully we can keep moving forward and get better.”
Featured image via Tony Venegas, TexasHSFootball.com
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