WESLACO — The Weslaco East Wildcats have their sights on another strong season.
The Wildcats have an experienced bunch that has tasted postseason success.
Last season was a magical one. East made the playoffs as a four-seed and upset district champion Edinburg Vela, then beat Del Rio in the area round before losing to Cibalo Steele in the third round. East has made the third round in two of the last three seasons.
This year, East returns five starters on offense and eight returning on defense. The eight returning on defense is a district high.
The offense will be led by three-year starting QB Richard LeFevre, a pair of four-year varsity members in running back Roy Pedraza and utility guru JC Vargas. Pedraza will be getting some help out of the back field from Freddy Gonzalez, who will serve as a fine complementary back.
Pound for pound, East is one of the toughest teams in District 32-6A and is a testament to fifth-year head coach Mike Burget, who’s hard-nosed, fiery leadership has helped change the culture at Weslaco East.
The Cats will run through the gauntlet once again in both non-district and district play. With a physical rushing attack led by Pedraza, East will look to run the ball and control the clock much like they did last season.
Through the first seven weeks, East will play a playoff team from last season. The Cats’ first game against a non-playoff team will come in Week 8 when Brownsville Rivera visits Bobby Lackey Stadium.
“Our backfield has plenty of experience and as a coach I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Burget on Friday. “Those guys are tough to bring down. Both Pedraza and Vargas are now four-year starters and LeFevre is in his third year as our starting quarterback. We had an off day this week and today we had a great practice. We’re preparing for our first scrimmage next week against Brownsville Lopez.”
“We couldn’t wait to get back out here. It’s always great, but today was our first day with pads so that fired us up more,” Pedraza said. “This year is our last year, so we’re hoping for another special year. Over the offseason we did summer workouts, Richard would text us to come and run routes so now we just have pads on and are ready to get the season started.”
QUICK HITS: Pedraza is arguably one of the top running backs in the Valley. Standing at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, Pedraza is a physical back who looks for contact and has speed to get to the second level. The senior running back also has great vision and can plant and cut as well.
LeFevre’s massive 6-3, 260-pound frame is an intimidating one. LeFevre is now a three-year starter and controls the offense with mastery. The senior signal caller has plenty of weapons around him for yet another successful season.
Much like a utility man in baseball, JC Vargas is the ultimate utility man. Vargas who is now a four-year starter on the varsity is no stranger to playing both ways. Vargas tag team partner Freddy Gonzalez will also provide some fireworks on offense. Gonzalez rushed for 290 yards on 28 carries but looks for an increased roll this year.
Experienced, hard-hitting Wildcats defense revved up
WESLACO — District 32-6A will once again be one of the toughest leagues in the Valley.
Weslaco East along with San Benito, Harlingen High and Los Fresnos made the playoffs last season with Harlingen winning the conference title.
Despite East finishing in fourth place, the Wildcats made the deepest playoff run along with Los Fresnos.
One key factor Weslaco East has in its favor is experience. The Wildcats have eight returning from last year’s defense. The eight returners lead the district. Through the regular season, the Wildcat defense grinded through a rigorous schedule but yielded just 18 points per game.
The defensive line will be the Wildcats’ strong suit with all four of their defensive linemen back for 2017. Defensive tackles, Jacob Banda and Robert Torres will both be a force in the middle. Fernando Garza and Gerald Garza will come off the edge as defensive ends. Garza missed a majority of last season due to an injury but is now fully healthy.
“We can be very good again this season,” said Vargas. “We have experience and chemistry; we have that killer instinct. This first week was great, we have our goals set high this year and we’re ready to get the season going.”
The linebackers are led by hard-hitting Freddy Cardenas and Mike Gonzlaes, followed by defensive backs Jaime Banuelos and Alvaro Medrano.
Cardenas led the Wildcats in tackles with 114 while Vargas led the team with five interceptions. One of Vargas’s biggest game came in a week one win versus Sharyland. Vargas patrolled the secondary and intercepted three passes with his final pick sealing the win for the Wildcats. Vargas is the jack of all trades who coaches love to have. Expect to see Vargas on all three phases of the game.
WILDCATS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mike Burget (5th season)
2016 record: 4-3 district, 8-5 overall; bi-district title, area title, regional quarterfinalist
Starters Returning O/D: 5/8
Games to watch:
Sept. 1 vs Sharyland
Oct. 6 vs San Benito
Oct. 20 at Harlingen