SAN BENITO — San Benito’s defense has been the heart of the team all season. During the regular season, the Greyhounds allowed just 171 yards and eight points per game, ranking first in the district for a second straight year.

It comes as no surprise the Greyhounds defense has been key during their playoff run, helping San Benito pick up back-to-back wins to punch their ticket to the Region IV-6A DI semifinals for the first time since 2018.

The Greyhounds draw a tough opponent in the third round, taking on Austin Westlake (12-0) in the Region IV-6A DI semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio.

“We couldn’t have done any of this stuff without our defense all year long,” San Benito defensive coordinator Steve Marroquin said. “Coach (Johnny) Garza is, in my opinion, the best defensive coordinator in South Texas and the state of Texas. He’s one heck of a coach. I’ve been coaching for a long time and this man really deserves his due.”

Linebacker Mariano Garcia is the anchor to the Greyhounds’ defense. The senior leads the team in tackles with 111 in 12 games, adding 23 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

He delivered one of his biggest performances during the Greyhounds Region IV-6A DI victory over San Antonio Taft, recording 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“It was very exciting,” Garcia said. “During my first three years, we didn’t win any playoff games. Now we’re going to the third round. It is a definitely a big game. My coach does a great job putting me in places to make plays. I just have to trust my teammates to do their assignments I just have to do mine.”

Garcia is one of several seniors stepping up their game during the postseason. Defensive lineman Nova Bejaran has terrorized opposing quarterbacks through two playoff contests, recording three sacks and three tackles for loss.

Defensive backs Homer Quiroz and DeAnthony Mireles have also played major roles during the two wins, combining for 39 tackles, three tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

The Greyhounds defensive effort has opened the door for star running back Fabian Garcia, who became San Benito’s single-season rushing leader following a 32 carry, 313-yard, four-touchdown performance against Taft in the second round.

Garcia has racked up 2,191 yards and 29 touchdowns on 196 carries this season, adding seven catches for 103 yards and a score.

San Benito Greyhounds’ Fabian Garcia (14) runs 66 yards for a touchdown during a Region IV-6A DI area round matchup againts San Antonio Taft on Thursday, Nov. 17 at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“He’s a tremendous young man,” Marroquin said following San Benito’s win over Taft. “He’s the ideal type of athlete that any coach would want. He puts in all the hard work. But honestly, it all comes down to our linemen up front. They did a heck of a job tonight, just like they’ve done all year long. We wouldn’t have been able to do this stuff without those guys up front. From the tight end to our O-line to our receivers. It is a team effort.”

RGV teams have struggled against Westlake historically, going 0-8 against the Chaparrals and being outscored 380-97. The PSJA North Raiders were the latest team to fall victim, losing 56-0 last season in the regional semifinals.

“Our guys are really in tune with what we do, and they understand what is going on,” Marroquin said. “We’ll go over the film and the stuff we’re go to do. We’ll look at them. Obviously, we know who we’re playing. Our guys do too. Right now, it is just about them We’re really excited about the things we did today as a team.”

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