LA FERIA — If anybody were to have told La Feria head football coach Oscar Salinas at the start of the season that his young Lions would be competing for a district title, he probably wouldn’t have believed it.
After all, the Lions started the season with an inexperienced sophomore quarterback and an almost entirely new offensive line.
Regardless, the Lions are indeed on the cusp of grabbing a share of the District 16-4A Division I title when they face the Grulla Gators tonight in Rio Grande City.
Both teams actually enter tonight’s contest at 2-1 in league play and the winner will lock up a share of the league title alongside Kingsville King (6-4, 3-1), which already concluded its season last week.
“We have a young team and we weren’t ready to go at the beginning of the season,” said Salinas. “However, we bounced back and the seniors have done a really good job of leading the team. We talked to them and told them that we still had everything in front us, but we have to pick it up in practice and pick it up in the games, and they have done that.”
This year the team has gone through a roller coaster of a year, starting off at 1-2 before going 4-1 in the past five games. And a lot of the credit for the team’s recent success goes to the defense for allowing the offense to grow up and build some chemistry.
Offensively, the Lions have emerged as a duel-threat team that has been impressively balanced. While the Lions have amassed 2,800 total yards of offense this season, those yards have been almost split 50/50 with 1,381 coming through the air and 1,419 on the ground.
One reason the Lions have done so well has been the emergence of quarterback Dorian Hernandez. The sophomore has grown considerably as the season has progressed, throwing for an impressive 1,372 yards and 16 TDs while rushing for another 499 yards and seven TDs on 92 carries.
However, Dorian has also had help from junior Darius Hernandez (no relation) and senior Julian Trevino, who leads the team with 747 yards receiving and nine TDs on 51 receptions. Meanwhile, running back Darius has kept defenses on its toes as the junior has rushed for 436 yards and six TDs on 101 carries.
“At the beginning of the year, our main goal was to get into the playoff; just find a way to get in,” said Salinas. “We had a sophomore quarterback and virtually an entirely new line, but all year long we’ve just gotten better and better and our offensive line has really grown up.”
While the Lions’ offense has matured throughout the season, the Gators’ offense is just as good with an experienced Dillen Salinas under center. But Salinas has been out of Grulla’s lineup for the past two weeks and there’s no word on whether he’ll be back tonight.
Offensively, the Gators come into the contest racking up 2,165 yards across seven games with 1,404 through the air and 761 yards rushing. Salinas has passed for 741 yards and 10 TDs while rushing for a district-leading 655 yards and six TDs on 116 carries.
“They are very big and physical up front, and they have some good receivers like No. 7 (Miguel Flores) because he is very explosive,” said Salinas. “We’re assuming Salinas will play because it’s such a big game, but we don’t know so we will be prepared for whoever they put in.
“They are going to be ready for us, so we have to be ready for them and try to get after it.”