BY ARMANDO GARZA |
A drive down Sam Houston Boulevard Friday night at 10:30 p.m. told the story like it needed to be told: Celebratory honks, yells and screams were aplenty as strangers and friends alike saluted each other after the hometown San Benito Greyhounds won the Battle of the Arroyo.
But the 53-0 whitewashing of the rival Cardinals wasn’t all the fanaticos were cheering for. The Greyhounds’ win also sewed up a District 32-6A championship as well as a perfect 10-0 season, the program’s first since 2004. The perfection was a battle cry for many fans in San Benito and with good reason.
Undefeated seasons aren’t commonplace in San Benito. The last time it was done, 13 years ago, was a season of magic and affirmation. That year too included a win over Harlingen, a 35-32 thriller at old Greyhound Stadium, and a then-32-5A title. In fact, many have pointed to that campaign being the gold standard of San Benito football, other than the 1961 state semifinalists. Wins over Harlingen used to be rare, but going unbeaten through the regular season is still not a regular occurrence.
The ‘Hounds have enjoyed great success since current head coach Dan Gomez’s arrival, however, that ‘04 team lives on in Greyhound lore and with good reason. Names like Randy Reza, Ernie Tamez, Charlie Pena, and many others conjure images of celebrations at Greyhound Stadium en route to a 12-1 season ending in the third round of the playoffs at the Alamodome.
Not surprisingly, Tamez and Reza were on hand Friday to catch a glimpse of the latest team to duplicate their feat of going through a regular season perfect, serving as a bridge to gap two special seasons of greatness.
“It means a lot to the community and the community comes together,” said Tamez, a slashing running back who wore jersey no. 5. “Watching this is something special, having played here. There’s nothing like it. I’m pretty sure they’re on top of the world right now.”
That year, Reza took the Valley by storm. The quarterback became the first to rush for 2,000 yards and rose to superstardom back when Mario Pena and his offensive coordinator Jorge Pena brought the ‘Hounds back to prominence. He too, took in Friday’s game but for a little different reason: His brother Ryan, a punishing defensive end on this year’s squad, was about to go 10-0 too.
“It’s an awesome feeling to see it, especially since my brother Ryan “The Wrecking Ball” Reza is out there,” Reza said with a laugh. “But records are meant to be broken and these guys have a solid team that is looking to go deep in the playoffs.
Oh yeah. It still carries the weight,” Reza added when asked if the perfect season is still talked about. “That’s why we’re out here to watch these guys do the same thing we did and hopefully go farther in the playoffs.”
The younger Reza simply enjoyed the moment.
“That was the plan since we were younger,” Ryan Reza said. “It’s very special. I’m a senior and we’ve been waiting for this moment. The time has come and we’ve worked hard for it.”
His coach, however, personified the task at hand: Excelling in the second season, not just the first, is that Gomez’s squad is gunning for.
“Anytime you go up against a tradition-rich program like Harlingen and you’re able to be successful, it shows how far the program has come in a short time,” Gomez said. “It’s a testament to the kids’ hard work. They just went business as usual. It’s not about who we play, it’s about how WE play.”
That workmanlike attitude is certainly something many have become accustomed to during the Gomez era. The accomplishments speak for themselves: Four district championships (three shared, one outright) three Battle wins and four playoff appearances (a third-round berth in 2015).
“It’s amazing,” quarterback Erick Retta said of the win. “I have to thank my offensive line for protecting me and our defense keeping them (Harlingen) at zero is great.
Yeah it was (important to go 10-0) but we’re paying more attention to the playoffs and that’s what we’re getting ready for.”