SAN ANTONIO - Valley Week is one of the highlights of the high school football playoffs across the South Texas area, and it’s taken on an extra meaning for O’Connor quarterback Roel Sanchez.
Sanchez is one of the top signal callers across the city and one of the Panthers unquestioned team leaders.
He has helped lead the Panthers to a 12-0 record and the third round of the playoffs, but he could have easily been doing the same for their opponent this week, the San Benito Greyhounds.
Sanchez’s family roots run deep in the small Rio Grande Valley town located just southeast of Harlingen.
“My aunts, my uncles, my parents. Pretty much my whole family graduated from San Benito,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said his parents moved to the San Antonio area after graduation, but there are still countless family and friends who call San Benito home.
“They were actually talking about wearing two shirts,” Sanchez said. “My whole family is excited.”
Story on @OCNATION2017 QB @roelsanchezjr deep ties, connection to San Benito. Dad was QB for Greyhounds, family all from area. Panthers play SB Friday at Buc Stadium in CC. Full story->https://t.co/qBqimxos9K @NISDOConnorHS @NISD_Athletics #KSATsports #ksatbgc #Txhsfbplayoffs pic.twitter.com/QP0O8uaaKE — RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) December 1, 2017
There was a chance this matchup could take place, but several things had to fall into place throughout the year, including where both schools finished the season in the final standings.
It’s not lost on Sanchez how rare this opportunity is, to go up against lifelong friends and family with a berth in the regional finals at stake.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Sanchez said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance for something like this to happen, them being from the Valley and for it to happen my senior year is pretty exciting.”
Adding to Friday’s intrigue is that Sanchez’s father played for San Benito in the mid '80s and held the same position his son has now.
“My dad graduated in 1986 and he also played quarterback for San Benito his junior and senior year,” Sanchez said. “He has a lot of family and friends who’s sons are playing so they have been talking all week, and said this could happen. Sure enough, it’s here and now we have to play the game.”
San Benito is also 12-0 and will not be taken lightly by the Panthers. Sanchez has been clear about keeping the focus on the field and not on the stands despite the hype surrounding the game.
“They are a really good team,” Sanchez said. “We got our two playoff wins as team, together, so our plan is to keep going as long as we can.”
A raucous, electric environment is expected at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi.
The stands will be packed by both fan bases, Sanchez’s O’Connor family and the school that helped raise generations of his immediate family.
“They are going to have fans there and we have a good community here at O’Connor,” Sanchez said. “They will travel with us so it will be a great atmosphere and really fun.”
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