HARLINGEN — Mental toughness extra effort or better known as M.T.X.E is a motto the Harlingen Cardinal football program goes by. You see it written just about everywhere when you walk through the Cardinal Field house.
Along with their winning tradition, what separates and makes the Cardinal program special is their coaching staff. Of the 17 coaches on staff, 12 of them are Cardinal graduates and played football for Harlingen.
Both Monty Woodall (1975) and Bobby Lucio (1978) graduated in the 70’s, Three coaches graduated in the 90’s, Rey Deleon (1995), Scott Swinnea and Manny Gomez (1990) and Rolly Gonzalez (1998) and five coaches graduated from the 2000’s.
Bubba Ledesma and Mando Gonzalez (2004), Rolando Olivo (2001) Clayton Creators (2002), Johhny Guilen (2006) and Alexester Serna (2001).
Coach Lucio is no stranger to the Battle of the Arroyo.
Intensity, emotion and family, those were three words Lucio used to describe the Battle of the Arroyo. Lucio was born in San Benito and attended his first Battle of the Arroyo in 1963 at the age of three years old.
“My family is from San Benito,” said Lucio. “My uncles were playing for the Hounds and I was taught to sing the San Benito Alma matter at a young age.
“My father was hired by the Harlingen fire department, so we moved to Harlingen and from there on, I became a Cardinal. I was the first member of my family to play for the Cardinals.”
Lucio is also a winner when it comes to the big game. Lucio went 2-0 in the years as a player and as a coach against San Benito Lucio is an impressive 23-6-2.
“We need San Benito and they need us. We are a coin, one side and the other you can’t have one without the other. We are inseparable and each side looks forward to being on top and that’s what we both look forward to,” Lucio said.
Coach Guillen meanwhile has memoires of his own. Guillen grew up a Cardinal fan and played wide receiver, punter and kicker.
It was Guillen’s senior year that sticks out the most for him. Harlingen trailed 19-7 at halftime before rallying back to win 29-22, clinching a playoff berth for the Cardinals.
“Right before the half, our quarterback Robert Sanchez hit me on an out route and my friend Ernie Tamez was coming to hit me. I remember jumping over him and flipping into the end zone and from there we gained momentum going into the second half,” Guillen said.