The Brownsville Pace Vikings opened their season with a 38-2 win over Brownsville Lopez in a District 16-5A Division I zone game.
The Vikings dominated from start to finish, showing a quick-scoring offense and resilient defense in the debut.
“I was hoping that we didn’t look too bad because we hadn’t played, and we did a good job,” Pace coach Danny Pardo said. “We did a good job of taking care of the ball, not too many jitters, and that’s really what I wanted to see. We got some work with the No. 1s, and then from there we took them out. We didn’t want to risk any injuries.”
It was all Pace during the first half as the Vikings opened a 29-0 lead at halftime. Pace’s defense kept the Lobos from getting any momentum, forcing punts on every drive through the first two quarters.
Junior defensive lineman Gabriel Galvan led the first-half defensive effort, busting through the Lopez offensive line to pressure and sack Lobos sophomore quarterback Jacob Cortinas several times.
Senior running back Marc Garcia scored twice during the first half, on 8- and 28-yard rushes. A pair of sophomores added the other touchdowns, one on a 35-yard breakaway run by running back Ivan Gonzalez and another on a 23-yard reception by receiver Brandon Narvaez from senior quarterback Jose Banda.
“At the running back position, they’re two brand new kids,” Pardo said. “(Gonzalez) is a sophomore, and (Garcia) is a senior but was a receiver last year. That was my concern, to see how they looked. We know we can throw the ball, receivers can catch the ball, but we need to be able to run the ball to be successful in this district, so that was really the emphasis.”
Narvaez also rushed for a 2-point conversion after Pace’s second touchdown. Junior kicker Christopher Zapata made the PATs.
The Vikings also found the end zone on a 28-yard rush by sophomore fullback Juan Velez, but it was called back due to an illegal formation penalty.
Lopez found a little rhythm after forcing a Pace punt with four minutes to play in the first half. The Lobos were driving behind consecutive strong runs from junior Gerardo Soto and senior Jose Lerma, but penalties pushed them back 20 yards and forced another punt.
The Vikings got on the board quickly in the second half. Narvaez notched a big return to set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Gonzalez. They added a safety as senior Andrew Banda made a tackle in the end zone after a Lopez fumble on the first play of a drive starting on the 7-yard line.
Pace pulled its starters after the scores made it 38-0 in the third. Velez broke off some big runs to get the Vikings into the red zone, but Lopez’s defense held.
Junior free safety Augustine Rodriguez and junior defensive end Andrew Hernandez were key contributors as the Lobos kept the Vikings off the board. Rodriguez made several solid solo tackles and Hernandez dominated the offensive line to make stops in the backfield.
Senior linebacker Adan Villa recovered a fumble to start a Lopez drive on Pace’s 38-yard-line. A 19-yard rush by Cortinas got the Lobos into the red zone for the only time, and his pass to junior Juan Jaramillo made it first-and-goal from the 6-yard line.
But Lopez’s offense couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Pace junior linebacker Jonathan Lerma notched a five-yard tackle for loss to help neutralize the scoring threat.
Lopez forced another turnover in the fourth as Hernandez knocked the ball free from a running back and sophomore linebacker Angel Valdez recovered in Vikings territory. Pace’s defense came up big again as senior defensive back Danny Salazar tipped a pass and Zapata showed focus and versatility to notch the interception.
Lopez got on the board late in the fourth after a snap on a Pace punt went over the punter’s head and through the back of the end zone for a safety. It was a tough night for the Lobos, but coach Armando Gutierrez was proud of their effort.
“They weren’t going to give up, that’s one of the things we always preach. Their effort is never-ending,” Gutierrez said. “They’re growing together. I have a bunch of sophomores, two seniors, so there’s a little growth in every position. These kids just have a motor, and they don’t want to get off the field. We got to get a lot of maturity behind us, it’s just going to take time.”