The McAllen Rowe Warriors cruised to a District 16-5A Division I victory over the Brownsville Pace Vikings on Thursday at Sams Memorial Stadium.

The Warriors started fast on offense and played lights-out defensively. Rowe shut down Pace’s usually effective run game and controlled the contest from start to finish.

“First off, I’d like to give credit to my coaching staff,” Rowe coach Robert Flores said. “They get the kids ready on offense and defense. My defensive coordinator, Robert Bocanegra, had a great plan coming in and the kids executed, they played hard. … We were fortunate enough to move the football, execute and also make some stops on defense.”

Rowe’s swarming defense dominated the first half. The Warriors held Pace to 89 yards of offense, unofficially. Diego Pacheco, Jason Neal, Yahir Garcia and Anthony Reyes were quick to break up passes and help the solid defensive line stop the run.

Pace’s first two drives ended with negative yardage, and the Warriors took their first two possessions to the house. Rowe senior quarterback Mateo Llanas connected with junior running back Chris Zavala on a quick pass for a 39-yard touchdown, then Llanas hit senior receiver Jorge Diaz after he beat single coverage for a 34-yard score.

The Warriors increased their lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter as Llanas found junior Nelson Ramirez for a 25-yard touchdown on fourth-and-11. Rowe moved the ball with ease as Llanas hit a number of targets and Zavala picked up yards with his legs, spinning and trucking through arm tackles.

McAllen Rowe Warriors defensive lineman Victor Vega (42) and defensive back Jason Neal (13) bring down Pace Vikings’ running back Ivan Gonzalez (8) Thursday during the District 16-5A Division I game between the Pace Vikings and the McAllen Rowe Warriors at Sams Memorial Stadium.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“On offense, Mateo Llanas is a three-year varsity guy and came out and controlled the pace, was able to make some plays. The offensive line, along with Jorge Diaz, Chris Zavala, several players did a fantastic job,” Flores said.

Pace didn’t get any offensive momentum going until late in the first half. Rowe senior defensive back Adolfo Gonzalez hauled in an interception, but on the Warriors’ first drive of the ensuing possession, Pace senior linebacker Jorge Rodriguez forced a fumble recovered by junior defensive lineman Julian Vasquez to give the ball back to the Vikings.

The turnover fired up the Pace sideline, and the Vikings used that energy to get on the scoreboard after a 63-yard scoring drive. Junior quarterback Brandon Narvaez ran the ball well and connected with Ivan Gonzalez, Adrian Cantu and Alexander Agado to get down field. Narvaez hit Agado through tight coverage for an 11-yard touchdown.

Rowe only needed one minute to answer. Diaz had a pair of receptions during the quick drive, including a diving catch down the sideline. A pass interference penalty against Pace helped set up Llanas’ 11-yard touchdown run. He ran like a power back to the goal line, plowing over a defender to hit paydirt.

McAllen Rowe Warriors kicker Mauricio Andree (28) kicks the ball past Pace Vikings defense Thursday during the District 16-5A Division I game between the Pace Vikings and the McAllen Rowe Warriors at Sams Memorial Stadium.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“We made some good plays on defense, but when we made a good play we had one that broke our back. When we had a good series, we gave one up,” Pace coach Danny Pardo said.

The Warriors didn’t miss a beat after halftime. Neal snagged an interception on Pace’s second play of the second half, giving Rowe the ball in Vikings territory. Zavala scored on an 18-yard carry.

Rowe added one more touchdown during the third quarter as Ramirez took a pitch 44 yards. Even after cutting out the passing plays to slow things down in the fourth, the Warriors tacked on a score. On fourth-and-13, Ramirez showed his elusiveness again on a 24-yard shovel pass touchdown.

The Vikings continued to play hard despite the deficit. With starting back Gonzalez sidelined, Cantu and sophomore Valiant Rodriguez showed promise with their carries. Cantu scored on a 1-yard rush after pushing the ball downfield during a third-quarter scoring drive.

Narvaez continued to make things happen with his legs and showed patience against an aggressive defensive line to finish some good throws. He found senior tight end Chase Morales for an 11-yard touchdown late in the game. Senior kicker Emilio Cahuiche was 3-for-3 with PATs.

“We got beat. You can’t hide anything. They were much tougher than we were. We didn’t come out to play, we had a lot of miscues. It’s not an excuse, they just have to learn,” Pardo said. “When you play a team like this, and the rest of the way out it’s all good teams, we can’t afford to start slow, we can’t afford to make mistakes, and when we have to make plays, we have to make the plays.”

McAllen Rowe Warriors’ Nelson Ramirez (6) outruns the Pace Vikings’ defense for a touchdown Thursday during the District 16-5A Division I game between the Pace Vikings and the McAllen Rowe Warriors at Sams Memorial Stadium.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Along with scoring three touchdowns, Ramirez notched an interception during the fourth quarter. He was one of several defensive standouts for Rowe. Senior defensive end Victor Vega played a good game and often got pressure on the quarterback. Two Warriors handled the kicking duties; senior Kevin Badillo was 4-for-4 on PATs, and junior Mauricio Andree made all three of his attempts.

Next up, the Vikings (2-2, 2-1) will travel to face Weslaco East, and the Warriors (3-1, 3-0) have a marquee matchup with McAllen Memorial.

“We’re jelling, we’re working hard, but we know that McAllen Memorial’s up next. They’re the king, they’ve done a very good job,” Flores said. “Weslaco East is tough, Brownsville Vets has been playing well. It’s anybody’s, so we have to continue to study, get better and stay healthy.”