Over 5000 miles into the road trip and I’m finally down in the Rio Grande Valley to see the Harlingen Cardinals. Harlingen got a lot of attention last season for advancing to the fourth round in the 5A. They earned statewide respect and became the center of Valley pride for their success. The Rio Grande Valley is geographically isolated from the rest of the state and although no valley team has ever won a big school state title, there’s no shortage of interest and support for football in this part of the state. If you watch the local news or read a the Valley Morning Star you see just how important the high school game is here. High school previews were on the front page and led the sportscasts all weekend. You can’t drive down a street in Harlingen without seeing a Cardinal or Hawk on a storefront, a front yard sign or a window decal.
Harlingen High School is the most prominent program in the Valley and from the short look I had at them tonight I can see some of the toughness that got them into that position. They mostly did walkthroughs tonight, didn’t do a lot of banging, but you could see they were very businesslike and serious about the upcoming season.
Another example of the trend of supporting the lower levels that I’ve seen at all the programs I’ve visited. Harlingen takes it a step further than all the rest. All 16 Harlingen coaches work all three levels. The freshmen squad practices in the morning, allowing all the varsity coaches to work with them. I think the most impressive thing I’ve seen the last three weeks is the quality of the underclassmen in Texas. You can’t go to a JV practice in Nevada without seeing kids who are clearly playing for the first time. In Texas you can barely tell the difference between JV and varsity players. Commitment to providing quality coaching to the freshmen, like they have at Harlingen is a big reason for this.