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Edinburg CISD telecast of last year’s bi-district playoff game between Weslaco High and Edinburg High captured the indelible and haunting image of the Panthers storming the field after the game-winning touchdown. The Weslaco Panthers picked up where they left off Friday and stormed through the first quarter, scoring on their first three possessions and capturing a 40-7 win.

The metaphorical storm that brewed toward Friday’s matchup took literal form as the game was delayed due to lightning. All expectations and emotions were put on hold.

“It was a game full of emotions, there was lightning, it was parents night, a transformer blew up…but I thought it was a total team effort,” Weslaco head coach Roy Stroman said. “I liked our special teams and defense, I liked the way our offense played tonight, I felt we controlled the line of scrimmage and controlled the run game, and that was the key to our victory tonight.”

The Panthers added another win to their spotless record (3-0) with a commanding performance from senior quarterback Andres Sepulveda.

“Poise, he’s got poise in the pocket…he’s taken the leadership role, and that’s what we wanted for Andres,” Stroman said. “He’s taken to this offense and knows it by heart, it’s like having a coach on the field.”

The Panthers started their night with an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Sophomore Chris Luna wrestled the ball away from Bobcat receiver Jude Vega to secure the first turnover. The Panthers struck first with a 7-play, 60-yard drive capped with a 6-yard touchdown from a spinning Eli Rodriguez. The drive was a combination of Rodriguez dominating on the ground and Sepulveda’s crisp and accurate passing. Sepulveda completed three straight passes before Rodriguez found the end zone. Rodriguez reacquainted himself with the end zone late in the second for his second touchdown.

The Panthers’ staunch defense stopped the Bobcats on three straight plays. As the Bobcats punted, Luna found his way to provide another defensive highlight. Luna blocked the punt and handed the offense a gift at the Bobcat 30-yard line. Sepulveda accepted the gift and led the Panthers to their second score. Sepulveda racked up a 12-yard completion to Jayden Garcia and rushed for 17 yards including a 1-yard touchdown.  

The Panthers’ defense held the Bobcats to another short series led by senior Matthew Garza. Garza gobbled up Edinburg’s Garcia on a short pass and set up another punt. Sepulveda continued his mastery and connected twice including a 16-yard pass to Felipe Pruneda on third down. Two plays later, Sepulveda darted off the left side for his second score of the game, a 13-yard romp. 

Edinburg proved their mettle. After a 20-minute delay due to a power outage, the Bobcats put together a 12-play, 67-yard drive early in the second quarter on the legs of their top rusher, Ryen Abrego. Abrego was that silver-lining within the storm. He rushed seven times in the drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown connection from JT Santa Maria to Jude Vega. 

There seems to be an imperceptible value to a third preseason game that is almost lost to the untrained eye or casual fan in the stands.  In a third preseason game, coaches are looking to see if their team has shaken off any summer rust and found their identity, and that’s where Bobcat’s head coach Rene Guzman found value in the game.

“We need to find out who we are, I thought we could face adversity, but we need to overcome it… right now, we have to look at what we have to fix, move forward and improve on that to get ready for district,” Guzman said. “That’s always the goal with a non-district schedule.”

Stroman’s assessment encapsulated the Panthers’ performance. Rodriguez reacquainted himself with the end zone late in the second pushing the lead 27-7. Rodriguez, on such a night, can only be described as lightning. The Panthers also got contributions in the second half from junior Freddy Reza, who was electric and carried the ball six times including four carries in a row. His 12-yard romp pulled the Panther’s into the red zone. And yes, lightning struck again. This time Rodriguez outran defenders to the pylon on fourth-and-goal for an 8-yard touchdown. 

Preseason has value, and one thing everyone can see is that preseason is almost that last chance for rivalries to continue and thrive.

“This is the battle of the originals. I told Coach Guzman, you’re the original Edinburg, we’re the original Weslaco and it’s always going to be a good game, doesn’t matter what the records are,” Stroman said