One advantage is immediately obvious for the Port Isabel Tarpons as they prepare for their non-district matchup against Zapata this week.
They’ll be playing at home, and that can be an important factor when the opponent is Zapata, a distant, but familiar foe.
The Tarpons (3-2) face the Hawks (2-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tarpon Stadium.
“That’s a big plus for us,” said Monty Stumbaugh of having the game on his team’s home field.
It would seem that no one is going to get too excited about making a three-hour trip on a school bus to play an away game. Yet, the two schools have taken turns doing just that over the past six seasons as Port Isabel has won four of those six previous matchups, including a 31-28 triumph at home last year.
While the past four contests between the teams have come in District 32-3A competition, the Hawks have moved out of 32-3A this season and into 31-3A.
The Hawks beat Port Isabel 39-33 in 2010 and 35-28 (OT) in 2009 after the Tarpons captured the three previous matchups 34-25 in 2008, 36-7 in 2007 and 24-0 in 2006. They didn’t play in 2005.
Stumbaugh believes the Tarpons can expect another close matchup against the Hawks, who are coming off a 35-22 victory over Crystal City. Zapata opened the season with a 21-14 win over Laredo Cigarroa before suffering loses against Laredo Alexander (60-7), Mission Veterans Memorial (42-28) and Laredo Nixon (45-14).
“They’ve played some pretty good people,” the Tarpons coach said of Zapata. “They have some good size. They like to pound on you (with sustained drives) and keep your offense off the field. They’re aggressive on defense.
“It’s going to be a tough game, we know that,” he added.
Zapata is led by Mikey Alvarez, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior fullback who has rushed for 659 yards and scored seven TDs. He averages 6.3 yards per carry and leads 31-3A in rushing.
The Tarpons boast their own district-leading rusher from 32-3A in junior running back Jacob Losoya, who has gained 603 yards on the season with three TDs. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
Stumbaugh said QB Isaiah Martinez should play, but running back Juan Aguilera probably won’t.
The Tarpons rallied from a 7-0 deficit to defeat Grulla 13-7 last week in Rio Grande City for their second straight win.
“We like the way our players responded in the second half last week (to score two TDs),” the Tarpons coach said. “We’re proud of their effort. It was a big win for us.
“We’re slowly getting there,” he added. “We just want to keep the momentum going.”
Roy Hess writes for The Brownsville Herald. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.