No. 2 Greyhounds look to stay hot vs. Hornets in VMS Game of the Week

SAN BENITO – This season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the San Benito Greyhounds.

After losing a bevy of talent to graduation including wide receiver Armando Medrano, left tackle Joseph Partida, and star quarterback JR Gaitan, who passed for more than 1,660 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015, the 2016 ’Hounds weren’t expected to pack much of a punch.

And while the season just began, the ’Hounds looked positively remarkable in a 47-21 win over Laredo United last Thursday in Laredo.

Even a broken bus on the way to the game didn’t phase this group of guys.

“The team and our coaches did a good job of keeping focused and remembering why we were going to Laredo, which was to take care of business,” said ’Hounds head coach Dan Gomez.

They did indeed take care of business. San Benito completely overwhelmed the Longhorns, who are considered to be the best football team in the Laredo area. The ’Hounds put up 407 yards of total offense, including 219 passing yards by junior Erick Retta, who threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another.

Equally impressive was the ’Hounds’ defense, which held the Longhorns to 180 yards passing, 136 yards rushing and three garbage-time scores. Senior linebackers Emilio Garza and Richard Moreno were particularly solid as they accounted for 27 total tackles.

Yet Gomez wasn’t entirely pleased with his team’s performance.

“We celebrated for a couple of hours, but then we got back to work,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We had two turnovers and we missed a few assignments. It wasn’t a perfect game.”

Up next for the ’Hounds, who are ranked No. 2 in the Valley, is a home contest against the San Antonio East Central Hornets, who beat San Marcos 40-21 in their season debut. Kickoff for the Valley Morning Star’s Game of the Week is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Bobby Morrow Stadium in San Benito.

The Hornets are coached by Joe Hubbard, who took over as head coach in April after Clint Hartman left to become the head coach at Midland Lee.

Last season the Hornets were 4-7 overall and 3-2 in District 28-6A, finishing in second behind Corpus Christi King and Carrol and losing to San Antonio Stevens in the opening round of the playoffs.

This past February’s UIL realignment did not treat the Hornets well as they were moved into District 27-6A along with state powerhouses Cibolo Steele, Converse Judson, Smithson Valley and Schertz Clemens, which ousted San Benito in the third round of the postseason last year. Dave’s Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine predicted the Hornets to finish in seventh place this season behind Converse Wagner and New Braunfels.

This season the Hornets return seven players on offense, including running back Jawan Hall and wide receivers Jahjah Matthew and Donald Holden. Blade Strzelczyk, who was used primarily as a receiver in 2015, is the team’s quarterback. Meanwhile on defense, eight players return led by defensive back Darion Smith, who had 89 tackles and three interceptions last year.

“We know they like to run the ball a lot,” Gomez said of the Hornets. “They only run like three plays, but they run them very well. Our defense will have its hands full.”

LAREDO UNITED SOUTH AT HARLINGEN HIGH: The Valley’s top-ranked team had little trouble in their 44-14 season-opening win against Mission Veterans last Thursday. The Cards now look to improve to 2-0 when they host the Panthers at 7:30 tonight at Boggus Stadium.

Although star running back Leo Tienda was held to nine yards on just five carries last week, others on the team stepped up big and got the job done.

Quarterback Jesse Castro was 9 of 16 for 169 yards and two touchdown passes. Meanwhile, junior running back Abel Castaneda rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries for two scores.

The Panthers, who look to avoid an 0-2 start after losing last week to San Antonio Wagner, feature an explosive running back of their own in the form of senior Jesus Posada, who ran for 212 yards on 23 carries and a TD a week ago. They also have a competent QB as junior Ismael Contreras threw for 155 yards and one score on 11 of 23 passing with one interception.