Brownsville Veterans Memorial and McAllen Rowe went toe-to-toe Wednesday at Sams Memorial Stadium, but power running carried the Rowe Warriors to a 28-21 victory.
The Chargers took a 21-20 lead with 5:41 remaining in the game, but a clutch drive sparked by junior quarterback Mateo Llanas and senior running back Nicolas Meehan put the Warriors on top with 2:26 on the clock. Rowe’s defense then forced a turnover on downs to secure the Warriors’ first win of the season.
“We always preach fight ’til the end,” Rowe coach Robert Flores said. “All due respect to Brownsville Veterans and coach (David) Cantu and his staff, because they fought hard also. It was a battle all the way through. But we were able to hold off enough, and (Meehan) helped us carry the load and made some big plays down the stretch.”
Brownsville Veterans junior kicker Jose Medrano scored the first six points for the Chargers and showed off his leg with a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Junior Diego Pacheco led the Warriors on the ground during the first half and found the end zone twice. He answered Brownsville Veterans’ opening-drive score with a 67-yard run in less than one minute to make it 7-3 after a Kevin Badillo PAT.
Pacheco’s second touchdown was a 6-yard rush to make it 14-6 in the second quarter. It was set up by a 28-yard pass from senior starting quarterback James Gamez to senior Adam Alvarado. Chargers junior defensive back Emmanuel Vega was covering tightly, but Gamez hit Alvarado in stride and the receiver secured the ball through the tackle.
Brownsville Veterans tied it up late in the first half behind two exciting plays. First, senior linebacker Gabriel Aleman blocked, recovered and returned a Warriors punt 30 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers then pulled a trick out of the hat for the 2-point conversion. Junior running back Jose Moreno took the snap, tossed it to senior receiver Nathan Fernandez, and Fernandez threw to the end zone. The pass was deflected by a Rowe defender, but senior quarterback Marlon Montelongo stayed focused on the ball and made a catch just off the ground for the tie.
“It was our little version of the Philly Special for two to tie it up at half, we call it the Brass Monkey,” Chargers coach David Cantu said. “It goes back about 12 years, we’ve run that play for a long time. We had a little fun with it.”
Llanas took over as the primary quarterback during the second half. The Warriors used a heavy dose of Llanas, Meehan and senior running back Lorenzo Lopez to pound the ball and drain the clock.
“Both quarterbacks bring their own special talents to the field, so we rotate them at times when we feel at certain parts of the game we need to use one or the other,” Flores said. “It just so happened that when we made the change, we started to move the ball more and some things started clicking, so we stayed with (Llanas).”
Meehan had consecutive first-down rushes to get deep into Chargers territory, and Lopez cashed in with a 19-yard touchdown run. Brownsville Veterans’ Aleman showed his burst again to block the PAT, making it 20-14 Rowe during the final minute of the third quarter.
Brownsville Veterans regained the lead as sophomore backup quarterback Reece Sampayo made the most of his only snap. He connected with Montelongo for a 59-yard strike after Montelongo got down to the 1-yard-line. Montelongo then scored on a 1-yard keeper.
Llanas returned to the game after going down with an injury. Aleman and junior linebacker Jorge Alvarado defended well on the drive, but Rowe’s power runners and a 25-yard pass from Llanas to junior receiver Jorge Diaz moved the Warriors down field quickly. Consecutive runs from Meehan resulted in a 2-yard rushing touchdown, capped by a Llanas run on the 2-point conversion, essentially sealing the Warriors’ win.
Senior defensive back Alan Pacheco recorded some sacks and senior defensive lineman Ryan Martinez was a force up front to lead the Warriors’ defense. Senior defensive lineman Gerardo Sosa notched an interception.
Aleman and Alvarado played well defensively throughout the night for the Chargers. Junior running back Jose Moreno and Montelongo carried the Brownsville Veterans offense and ran well.
“They had a short week of practice but one of the best practices all year on Monday, then came out and competed against what I feel is one of the better teams in the Rio Grande Valley,” Cantu said. “I couldn’t be prouder. It was all about improving this week and I feel like we definitely did improve, and that’s all we can ask for. (Aleman’s) all heart, all the time. He made some humongous plays. He and the defense overall played really sound, and that’s all we hope for the rest of the way.”