Panthers seek redemption
United South has been itching for its shot at redemption since suffering a narrow loss in last season’s playoff opener.
The Panthers get a chance to exorcise their demons Friday as they travel for a 7:30 p.m. game against La Joya Palmview.
The No. 12 Panthers (8-2, 6-1 District 29-6A) beat LBJ 21-14 last week to clinch a share of their first district title since 1999.
They are in the playoffs for the third time in five years under head coach Sergio Salinas and are searching for their first win.
"It’s a special time of the season right now," United South head coach Sergio Salinas said.
"We have an opportunity to play for a championship. Our boys have waited a long time for this opportunity again.
Last year we finished with a sour taste in our mouth. We’re ready to get back on the field and do something that hasn’t happened in a while."
Palmview started 1-4 this year but has gone 4-1 since.
The Lobos (5-5, 4-2 District 30-6A) are in the playoffs for the third straight season.
They lost 58-30 to Del Rio in the opening round last year, and in 2014 they edged LBJ 21-17 before getting blown out by Weslaco East in the second round.
The Lobos feature a balanced offense centered around senior Joel Pina who has rushed for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Jose Avalos and seniors Tristan Myende and Mark Salinas have combined for another 667 yards and seven scores.
Senior quarterback Jon Zieske is 82 of 148 (55.4 percent) for 1,241 yards with eight touchdowns and four picks.
"In the playoffs, everybody is going to be good," Salinas said.
"Palmview has gotten on a roll late in the season. They have some playmakers that can hurt you. If you make mistakes, they can feed off it.
I think we match up well against them. The way we run to the ball, we match up well with the offense."
United South has also been balanced on offense alternating the past five games between gaining more on the ground or through the air.
After overcoming nagging leg injuries early in the season, senior running back Jesus Posada has been a steady force the past five games rushing for 846 yards and scoring nine times.
Junior quarterback Ismael Contreras has led the Panthers to their most passing yards since 2011 completing 51.6 percent of his passes (115 of 223) for 1,577 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"I don’t think they’ve faced anybody as physical as we are," Salinas said.
"Our boys have done a good job of executing. We should be able to put a good game together Friday."
After securing their first district title since 1999, the Panthers will attempt to also earn their first playoff win since 1999 when they face Palmview at 7:30 p.m. Friday at La Joya ISD Stadium.
"Our boys are ready," Salinas said. "They have practiced hard all week. They are ready to get on the field and have a shot at a bi-district championship."
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