PHARR Donna High opened its Region IV-5A DI bi-district playoff game against PSJA North with an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The next 47 minutes, however, belonged to the Raiders, the No. 7 team in the state.

PSJA North took down Donna 45-7 on Thursday at PSJA Stadium to advance to next week’s area round. The Raiders (11-0, 7-0) will face the winner of Friday night’s bi-district matchup between Medina Valley (5-5, 5-3) and Victoria East (7-3, 6-1). Donna’s season ends at 6-5 overall with back-to-back playoff appearances.

“It was ugly. Any win’s a good win, but this was an ugly win. There was a familiarity between the two teams, so it was one of those where we knew each other already. We played last year and it was pretty much the same result as last year,” PSJA North head coach Marcus Kaufmann said, referencing the Raiders’ 41-7 bi-district victory over Donna last season.

PSJA North’s Jaden Fuentes (24) carries the ball against Donna High in a Region IV-5A DI bi-district playoff game at PSJA Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Donna receiver Xavier Rodriguez started the action with an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after a little trickery from the return team.

PSJA North responded with the next seven scores as quarterback Ale Aparicio ran for touchdowns from 17, 89 and 1 yards out. Running back Jaden Fuentes scored on a 28-yard run off right tackle, and Aparicio threw a pair of touchdown passes to receiver/defensive back Leroy Palacios on a 12-yard fade and a 37-yard deep ball to Markus Rendon to start the second half. Raiders kicker Raul Isasi chipped in with a 25-yard field goal to make it a 31-7 game at the half.

Donna’s offense moved into PSJA North territory twice during the first half, but Raiders linebackers Steven Garza and Mikey Gonzales forced two fumbles and Palacios and Jesse Montez were there for the recoveries. Palacios also had an interception just before the half.

PSJA North defender Leroy Palacios (1) runs away with the ball after a Donna High fumble in a Region IV-5A DI bi-district playoff game at PSJA Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Aparicio finished with 182 rushing yards and three scores while passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Rendon led the Raiders in receiving with two grabs for 61 yards.

PSJA North now shifts its focus to next week’s area round. It’s the fourth consecutive season the Raiders have advanced to Round 2 of the state playoffs.

“I’ve been doing this for four years. I know the atmosphere and I know the pressure we have here in the first round,” Palacios said. “There’s no third or fourth round without the first round, so the expectations were high and we went out there and played ball.”

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Photo Gallery: Raiders move to area round after their win against Donna High 45-7