MISSION, Texas — Imagine this scenario: You lose your starting All-State quarterback, two All-State receivers and a running back to graduation. Your offensive coordinator takes a head coaching gig and the special team’s coordinator departs to another program.
Add in the fact that you come into the new football season with no home-field advantage to speak of because your high school’s stadium is being renovated.
Sounds like a formula for disaster, right?
For Mission Veterans Memorial, this was their reality at the start of 2017.
Seven weeks later, the Patriots have played in seven different locations, are undefeated and poised to make the playoffs, again. Despite the miles traveled and not having the full fanfare they’re used to at Tom Landry Stadium, the team appears to have remained focused.
“Our kids don’t even ask [where we are playing] anymore. We’re not going to cry about it or make excuses because we’ve got a saying in our program that we’ll play anybody, anywhere and anytime. If we’ve got to take it out and play on an H.E.B. parking lot, we will,” Head Coach David Gilpin said.
The Patriots are torching opposing defenses behind an offensive assault averaging 43.2 points per game. Junior quarterback Landry Gilpin, son of Mission’s head coach, has thrown for 1,793 yards, 19 touchdowns, and an interception. He’s also rushed for 1,110 yards and 15 scores through seven contests.
The aerial blitzkrieg includes wideouts Buda Gonzalez – a senior with 394 yards – and sophomore Mikey Garcia who has a total of 755 yards and is averaging 109 per game. Add in emerging sophomore running back Danny Cantu who averages 8.3 yards a carry and many may see why Veterans Memorial is having success up to this point.
“Landry is a special player, is having an unbelievable statistical year and he’s making great decisions with the football,” David said. “The offensive line is playing outstanding. Buda is our only returning starting receiver. He’s a very physical kid and a true leader for our team. Mickey Garcia is having an outstanding year for us and Danny has picked up his game every single week. They’re a great bunch of kids and we’ve got high expectations for all of our team.”
With a proven history of success – seven winning seasons in eight years and reaching the third round of the playoffs in 2016 — David and his coaching staff have set a high bar and he believes that this team has what it takes to meet expectations.
“I’m proud of our defense as they’re playing way better [than last season], and they’re getting it done for us big,” he said. “Our coaches are doing a great job and everyone on our team is contributing. Our goal is 12-and-0 and going to the third round of the playoffs or beyond. That’s our standard now and as long as I’m here, that’s going to be what we try for every year.”
The Patriots are getting ready to hit the road yet again and will face district rival Rio Grande City High School (5-3) this weekend. Although the Rattlers are coming off back-to-back losses to Pioneer and Laredo Nixon, Gilpin sees a dangerous foe.
“They’re a team that plays with a lot of confidence,” he said of the Rattlers. “They’re a great ball club with a super talented senior at quarterback. They run well, pass well and play very physical football out there in Starr County. We’re going to have to earn every single yard because there’s not going to be nothing given [to us].”
Gilpin said though people may see them as a “finesse team,” Mission Veterans Memorial prides itself on physicality.
“We’re going to play a very fast and physical matchup against Rio,” he added. “It could go either way.”
Although there is still a long road for the Patriots to travel in order to meet the expectations set, the task seems less daunting when you consider that traveling is all they’ve been doing and it’s worked for them, so far.
In case you’re wondering, Gilpin has been told that there is a chance his team will play at Tom Landry Stadium on the last scheduled home game — a week from this Friday — of the regular season. It will be the school’s “Homecoming week” contest.
How’s that for irony?
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