EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) – It’s playoffs or bust for Vela as they return 16 starters in 2023.

The Sabercats finished last season 10-2, losing in the second round of the playoffs to Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial. 

Vela had high expectations heading into 2022. They fell just short of their goal, but the Sabercats have not forgotten that feeling of losing early on in the playoffs.

“We remember that feeling,” Jaxson Shupe, senior wide receiver, said. “We lost. We’ve moved on from it, gotten better and hope to capture that regional championship.”

The Sabercats return 8 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense. The whole offensive line is back this season, which will help senior running back Jamal Polley.

Polley is Vela’s guy in the backfield this year. Having a great junior season, Jamal said, “It’s my last year, so I want to go out with a bang. I’m hoping to rush for over 2,000 yards this season.”

Vela’s deep playoff aspirations also ride on their defense. The defense allowed two touchdowns or less in 10 of its 12 games in 2022.

Senior defensive lineman Alexzander Sotelo will be an anchor for the Vela defense, finishing last year with 51 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 return TDs.

Their game against PSJA North was game-of-the-year worthy in the RGV. Vela came up short on the road, but they haven’t forgotten about the loss.

They know their matchup against the Raiders may decide the district championship in 15-5A DI, and week five of the season is marked on their calendar.

While revenge against PSJA North may be sweet, a deep playoff run is even sweeter for the Sabercats.

“We know the goal: round five,” Shupe said. “Win that regional championship, possibly get to state if we can.”

“It’s going to be a great year,” Polley said. “I just want my team to do well. Hopefully, everything goes right, and we make it to round four.”

Vela opens up its season against Edinburg North on Friday, August 25.