LA FERIA – With the new season comes a set of new questions for the La Feria Lions, including the most important question: How fast can the team find a new quarterback to replace Jonathan Leija?
There’s no doubt that the La Feria Lions return a plethora of talent for another run at the District 16-4A Division I title. And with an experienced core on defense coming back, the Lions will be hoping to rewrite some of last year’s wrongs.
However, while the Lions did have a successful 2016 campaign, two loses were what caused their season to go from great to good. And those loses remain etched in defensive end Nicolas Vasquez’s mind.
“Port Isabel and Grulla,” said Vasquez, when asked which games he was looking forward to the most this season. “Those two games are the ones that we lost last season and those are two games that we want to get back this year.”
After a 3-0 start to the 2016 season, both the Lions and the Tarpons were unblemished heading into their Week 4 showdown. But it was Port Isabel’s Omar Silva, who rushed for 420 yards and handed the Lions their first loss of the season.
But as tough as the loss to PI was, it was the 40-21 loss to Grulla that hurt the Lions the most. Standing at 4-0 in district action, the Gators derailed La Feria’s chance for a second consecutive district championship.
This season the Lions return a bevy of talent on defense including nine starters from last years squad that helped them go 7-3 overall and 4-1 in district.
“Everyone’s excited and ready to come back for a new season,” said Vasquez. “We messed up last year and our motivation this year is to win district and make it to the second or third round of the playoffs.
“We have about nine returning starters from last year’s defense because a lot of our guys from last year were young guys so now they’re coming back with some experience.”
In the postseason, the Lions lost a close 25-21 bi-district game to Rockport-Fulton.
While La Feria’s defense is loaded with returners, the offensive side of the ball is where the Lions could see some setbacks. After graduating starting quarterback Leija and wide receiver Brandon Perez, who signed to play football at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, the Lions are left with some holes to fill.
Fortunately, returning seniors like Julian Trevino and Darius Hernandez will cushion the blow on offense.
La Feria kicks off the regular season against the Raymondville Bearkats on Sept. 1.
LIONS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Oscar Salinas
2016 record: 3-1 district, 7-3 overall
Starters returning O/D: 5/7
Players to watch: WR/DB Julian Trevino, RB Darius Hernandez, LB Robert Fraga, DT Israel Rodriguez, DB Mark Tamez, DE Nicholas Vasquez, LB Victor Luna
Games to watch
-Sept. 1 at Raymondville, 7:30 p.m.
-Sept. 29 vs. Santa Rosa, 7:30 p.m.
-Sept. 22 at Port Isabel, 7:30 p.m.
-Nov. 10 at Grulla, 7:30 p.m.