GREG LUCA | STAFF WRITER
HIDALGO — When Valley View runs its pyramid before each day’s practice, a 3.2-mile trek through the roads surrounding the campus, Damian Magallan Jr. always finishes first by anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes.
He’s heard the criticisms that he’s only taken a starting role as Valley View’s central midfielder because his father is the coach. The runs are his effort to silence them.
“They’ll say, ‘You’re just on the team because of your dad,’” the younger Magallan said. “But each day I work hard to show them I’m not there just because of my dad.”
He said he’s carried that mentality into games as well, running his hardest from start to finish and fighting for every ball. His father, Damian Magallan Sr., plugged his son in as the team’s primary distributor in the middle from Day 1, despite the inevitable backlash.
The move has paid dividends for the Tigers early, as the younger Magallan has meshed with returning stars Avi Garcia and Rafael Garcia to lead the team to a 3-0 start in District 31-5A.
“I told him that he’s supposed to be the main guy,” the elder Magallan said through an interpreter. “He’s supposed to show everybody, ‘I’m here to work.’ I want you to be the first one here, and the last one to leave. And you can see it in practice.”
Although new to Valley View, the younger Magallan is a veteran of the center midfield, having played the past three years with Forza Campiones VIP Soccer Training in Austin.
Training with a club team has taken the younger Magallan to England, Holland and all around the United Sates and taught him the value of the mental side of the game.
“It’s another world,” the younger Magallan said. “There’s a lot more touching, and you have to use more of your brain. You have to know where you’re going to pass it before you even get the ball.”
The club experience also taught him the importance of grades, even as he spent time in three different high schools. Now, coaches say he has the highest marks on the team, and he offers to tutor any of his teammates who may be struggling.
Despite joining the Tigers as a junior, the younger Magallan knows many of his new teammates from their time together in middle school.
“He’s controlling the middle, and he’s passing the ball to us and making sure we’re getting the ball where we’re comfortable,” Avi said through an interpreter.
Avi, who ranked second in the district with 11 goals last season, has proven to be the younger Magallan’s primary target so far. A transfer, Ivan Rodriguez, also provides a scoring lift to a Valley View team that returns eight starters.
Avi said he’s more confident this season than he was last year, knowing that colleges are interested in possibly bringing him into their program in the fall.
“He’s the go-to guy, and he knows it,” the elder Magallan said. “That right there brought a little fire inside him. Every time he has the ball, he wants to take it all the way in.”
Rafael was Valley View’s leader last season with 13 goals, but this year he’s sliding into a defensive role. The younger Magallan’s arrival has allowed Rafael to shift from midfielder to stopper, which is his more natural and comfortable position.
“I would ultimately like to be the best defender in the state,” Rafael said through an interpreter. “Then just prepare and work hard for a university to give me an opportunity so I can go play in college.”
Before that, the team’s goal for 2016 is a trip to the final four of the state tournament. The elder Magallan believes Valley View, Sharyland High or Brownsville Porter will be the team to get there.
To limit his group’s distractions, the elder Magallan has instituted a “no girlfriends” rule. The players are also required to spend an hour each day before practice in tutoring to ensure that grades don’t get in the way.
Valley View is determined to rebound from a disappointing end to last season, when a pair of red cards contributed to Brownsville Pace eliminating the Tigers in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
“I was very sad, because we worked harder to advance further,” Rafael said. “Every year, we always feel we’re going to go deep in the playoffs, but the results were not there. … We’re working harder and doing things right this year to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”