The Battle of the Arroyo is always must-watch action in the RGV, with the historic rivalry almost always carrying some weight in the district title race.
Last year’s meeting was an instant classic, with the Greyhounds scoring three straight touchdowns to erase a 17-0 lead before Harlingen High running back Izaiah Bell took over and scored the game’s final three touchdowns to surge the Cardinals to a 38-21 win and the District 32-6A title.
While both teams don’t enter this year’s game undefeated like last year, the stakes are just as high this season, with a San Benito win all but eliminating its rival from the district title race, and a Harlingen High win creating chaos atop the district table.
The RGVSports.com staff talked to coaches across the RGV and gauged how the two teams fare against one another. Here is how Harlingen High and San Benito stack up heading into the pivotal District 32-6A contest.
Like last season, the teams’ passing attacks have taken a back seat to the run game, with the Cardinals and Greyhounds each running the ball more than two times than they’ve thrown it this year.
That doesn’t mean the teams don’t have viable weapons behind center, with both of last year’s starters returning for another go.
The Cardinals have deployed a two-quarterback system this season, with Randy Morales and senior Drew Kornegay taking reps behind center. Harlingen High’s duo has completed a combined 69-for-115 passes for 870 yards and three touchdowns.
On the other side, Aaron Corona has been the lone man to take reps for the Greyhounds, completing 44-of-69 passes for 703 yards and nine touchdowns.
The biggest difference between the quarterback groups comes from Morales’ running ability. The dual-threat playmaker has been among the best rushers in the RGV this season, carrying the ball 94 times for 919 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Last year’s contest featured a battle between two of the top running backs in South Texas in Harlingen High’s Izaiah Bell and San Benito’s Fabian Garcia.
Bell is gone to graduation but Garcia is back, looking to lead the Greyhounds to their first Battle of the Arroyo victory since 2018.
The senior bell cow hasn’t been asked to carry the ball as much as last year, averaging only 10.9 carries per game in comparison to 17.0 last season.
Despite the decreased workload, Garcia has been just as explosive, racking up 905 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 76 carries.
Over at Harlingen, sophomore running back Noah Huerta is gearing up to make his Battle of the Arroyo debut, stepping into the starting back role following the graduation of Bell. Huerta has displayed his potential through seven games, carrying the ball 91 times for 586 yards and 10 scores.
The Greyhounds take the edge in the running back category, not only on the merits of Garcia, but the depth behind him in senior Aaron Garza (74 carries, 544 yards, 11 touchdowns) and junior Angel Trevino (62 carries, 520 yards, seven touchdowns).
As mentioned earlier, neither team has relied too much on the passing game this season, both under 1,000 yards through seven games.
Still, both teams have capable receivers able to make a big play at any given moment.
San Benito’s Adam Cortez can blow the top off of defenses, averaging a team-high 22.9 yards per reception. The junior wideout has hauled in nine receptions for 206 yards and three scores.
The Cardinals hold the advantage over their rival, however, with two of their receivers ranking in the top 5 in District 32-6A in yardage.
Junior Adam Sanchez leads the team with 28 catches for 309 yards and one touchdown, and senior Aiden Cavazos has brought in 16 catches for 273 yards and one score. Sanchez and Cavazos rank fourth and fifth in the district in receiving yards, respectively.
Each team has lost multiple starters on the offensive line this offseason, with the Cardinals returning just one and the Greyhounds three.
Senior Anthony Johnson is the lone returning starter for Harlingen High, with fellow senior Adrian Aguirre the only other upperclassmen on the line. They’re joined by sophomore Steve Lopez and juniors Anthony De Leon and Aden Munoz.
The Greyhounds’ experience gives San Benito the edge over Harlingen High, with Ethan Ruiz, Carlos Vasquez and Isaac Ramirez all back after starting last year.
The trio has helped anchor a line paving way for a rushing game averaging 310.7 yards per game this season.
The teams have been dominant in the trenches on defense, each living in opponents’ backfields.
San Benito senior Karmyne Castilleja has been a disruptive force from his defensive tackle position, racking up 38 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s joined by breakout sophomore Patrell Reddick, who has tallied 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his first varsity campaign.
Meanwhile, returning starters Shea Garza and Jacob Ortiz have terrorized opponents this season, each with double-digit tackles for loss. Garza has 48 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and three sacks in seven games, while Ortiz has 31 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
San Benito’s linebacking corps is among the best in the RGV, highlighted by Devon Robinson, last year’s Valley Morning Star Newcomer of the Year.
The junior linebacker has been even better in his second varsity season, sitting at 52 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and a pair of blocked kicks.
Seniors Christian Garza and Daniel Cavazos round out the Greyhounds linebacking group. Garza ranks first on the team with 58 total tackles, adding seven tackles for loss and two sacks, while Cavazos has tallied 39 total tackles and two sacks.
Harlingen High has a pair of playmaking linebackers of their own in junior Sterling Tomlin (71 total tackles, six tackles for loss) and senior Adrian Lizcano (44 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five sacks), but San Benito gets the edge thanks to Robinson’s game-breaking ability.
Harlingen High’s secondary is filled with ball hawks, with three players recording at least two interceptions this year.
Andres Deur, JC Aleman and Julisses Garza have been the Cardinals top performers in the secondary, with the trio combining for nine takeaways. Each player has two interceptions this season, along with one forced fumble each.
San Benito’s Brandon Hernandez has been one of the best defensive backs in the RGV this year, with four interceptions to go along with his 37 total tackles and one sack. Still, Harlingen takes the advantage in the secondary, with the Greyhounds losing starter Peter Jackson to injury.
Jonathan Juarez has been near automatic for San Benito this season, connecting on 39-of-40 point-after-touchdown attempts and going 3-of-5 in field goal attempts.
The senior kicker gives the Greyhounds a weapon once inside their opponent’s 30-yard line as well, able to nail field goals from more than 40 yards if needed. His long this season is 44.
Juarez sits just outside the top 10 in District 32-6A in scoring this year, with 41 total points.
San Benito holds a slight edge over Harlingen High on paper heading into this year’s Battle of the Arroyo, with its experience on the offensive line the difference between the two.
As history has shown, however, rivalry games like the Battle of the Arroyo aren’t decided on paper, with records and stats out the window when the two teams meet.
Kickoff for the 111th overall meeting between the teams is set for 7 p.m. today at Bobby Morrow Stadium in San Benito.
Tickets for the contest are limited and can be purchased at https://sbhs.sbcisd.net/ under the Athletics tab.