Warriors eager to take on surging Lions

This year’s edition of the Battle of 506 figures to have a little something extra on the line, with an experienced La Feria squad eager to continue its dominance against a Santa Rosa team that hasn’t beaten its rival since Sept. 21, 2012.

But forgive Warriors coach Hector Ayala for not stepping aside to crown the Lions as the kings of the Rio Grande Valley just yet. Though La Feria’s 41-13 rout of Raymondville made them the talk of the town, Santa Rosa opened its 2019 season against Lyford in similar fashion with a 32-12 victory.

“If you win, you might have bragging rights when you go over to your aunt’s house,” Ayala said. “And it’s yours for a year. These kids understand that, and they want that. I think the environment of it all helps us get ready for a playoff atmosphere.”

Ayala has coaches on his staff that have themselves played in the Battle of 506 rivalry game, one he characterizes as“friendly” and “not as heated” off of the field due to the close proximity of the schools and having family ties on both sides.

But don’t think for a minute that there will be any moral victories standing in as a consolation prize for either side. “Our mindset is, we’re showing up to win,” Ayala said. “We’re going to fight hard… The kids are excited; they’re not down about it or anything like that. They see it as a challenge, and a chance to improve, so they’re ready to step up to that challenge.”

The history of the Battle of 506 rivalry has been rather one-sided, with La Feria winning by double digits in each of the last six seasons.

And yet, there’s potential for Santa Rosa to pull off an upset bid, if it can establish the run game with Jose Diaz-Mendez who rushed for 148 yards on 11 carries in last week’s victory over Lyford. The Warriors will also need to keep La Feria’s stout secondary on its toes with the quarterback tandem of senior Jose Ruiz (six completions for 92 yards and a touchdown) and junior Reese Lara, who is also a threat to run, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and rushed for 64 total yards in Santa Rosa’s first game.

TheWarriors went with a rotation under center last week, so the two should both see the field tonight and for the time being, unless Ayala decides to declare one the official starter.

“I would prefer to settle (the quarterback battle) going into district,” Ayala said. “But both kids are playing real well. They both had their share of mistakes, they weren’t perfect, but they also did good things.

They feed off each other.”

La Feria’s fearsome front line, led by junior Michael Elizondo, senior outside linebacker Erick Luna, senior defensive end Guillermo Vargas, and defensive tackle Andrew Rodriguez will aim to make things difficult for the Warriors offensively.

Much of the burden of protecting the Santa Rosa signal callers will fall on Adam Cavazos, the only returner on the Santa Rosa offensive line.

Ayala said he will also line up on the other side of the ball.

“He’s really helped us a lot with our younger guys,” Ayala said. “He’s been like a coach on the field for us.”

Ultimately, the game will be significant to Santa Rosa no matter the result, as the Warriors assess themselves going forward.

“That’s a good measuring stick right here,” Ayala said.

“Almost every year, La Feria has been a playoff team, and last year they had a great run. So if we can show our stuff there and matchup well and even get a victory, that’s going to say a lot for our program.”

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight at La Feria High School.

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.