Two of the best offenses in a loaded District 16-5A Division I faced off Thursday at Sams Memorial Stadium, but the game was more slugfest than shootout.
Brownsville Veterans Memorial made key stops at opportune moments, including two turnovers and one blocked PAT, that made all the difference. The Chargers (5-2, 5-1) defeated the McAllen Rowe Warriors (4-3, 4-2) 21-19 in an important game to stay one game back from the leader in the district standings.
“I’m really proud of our boys. (McAllen) Rowe’s a great team, and when you’re going to beat a good team you have to go through adversity. I thought we responded well, counterpunched, and I think that’s a sign of our young kids growing up,” Chargers coach Kelley Lee said. “We expected kind of a low-scoring game because we knew that their defense was solid and we felt like we had a good game plan, and if we executed, it would be this kind of game. To go out and fulfill what we wanted, see it come to fruition, it’s very rewarding.”
Brownsville Veterans took a quick lead, cashing in on a Jonah Alaniz fumble recovery that ended Rowe’s opening possession. A short 36-yard drive anchored by senior running back Jose Moreno ended with Moreno scoring on a 1-yard rush.
The teams swapped punts, then the Warriors came back with a quick score. Senior running back/defensive back Diego Pacheco broke away around the edge for a 68-yard rushing touchdown. Brownsville Veterans blocked the PAT, maintaining a 7-6 lead.
Rowe’s defense played well up front to stymie the Chargers’ offense, forcing punts on consecutive drives. In between stops, the Warriors ate a lot of clock with a slow-and-steady, 10-play, 50-yard drive featuring nine short yardage runs. Quarterback Mateo Llanas scored on a 2-yard keeper to put Rowe on top.
Late in the second quarter, Chargers sophomore defensive back Gilbert Trillo snagged his fifth interception of the season to give his team momentum. BVM rolled 57 yards down the field in its option offense and scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper from junior Reece Sampayo with less than one minute on the clock. The Chargers forced a quick three-and-out and held a 14-13 lead at halftime.
“(Trillo) played on JV in Week 1. He played well, we moved him up and he’s really become our leader in the back end of our defense,” Lee said. “He’s a really good ballhawk, and he fits the run well. He’s going to be a phenomenal football player. He’s already a pretty good one.”
Brownsville Veterans extended its advantage during the third on a 2-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back/linebacker Bryan Chavez. A 24-yard pass from Sampayo to senior receiver/defensive back Zachary Dennis set up the go-ahead score. Senior kicker Jose Medrano, who was 3-for-3 in PATs, made it 21-13.
The Warriors quickly responded with a score set up by a big run from Pacheco. He took a fourth-and-1 pitch 36 yards into Chargers territory, then junior running back Chris Zavala hit paydirt with an 8-yard run. Rowe attempted a two-point conversion to tie, but the pass sailed incomplete as Brownsville Veterans defended well.
“I think the big difference is we missed an extra point early, we had some penalties,” Rowe coach Robert Flores said. “When you make those kind of mistakes it hurts your field position, and not getting points on the board when you have a chance against a good team comes back to get you.”
The second half went by quick as both defenses flexed their muscles to contain high-powered offenses. Senior running back/linebacker Jorge Alvarado was solid to lead the Chargers defensively and had a huge fourth quarter to maintain the lead. Dennis and senior linebacker William Wassen aided BVM’s defense.
Freshman and junior running backs Storm Montoya and Jay Valdez were productive to help Brownsville Veterans sustain drives. Montoya was the workhouse on BVM’s final drive, consistently picking up good yardage with his legs to run out the clock.
Victor Vega, Jason Neal, Yahir Garcia and Mikhail Mata led Rowe’s defensive effort. Llanas connected with Jorge Diaz for some good gains, and Pacheco and Zavala carried the load in the run game.
“We’re in the toughest district, in my opinion, in the Rio Grande Valley,” Flores said. “Every week we’re playing playoff teams. We knew (BVM coach Kelley Lee) was going to have his guys ready, and they’ve done a great job. We’re not done yet. We still got three ballgames, and anything can happen. All we can control is our own destiny. We need to focus on correcting the mistakes we made and get ready for the next one.”