HIDALGO — Arena football action was back in a familiar venue Monday night as the RGV Dorados dismantled more than just the San Antonio Knights’ armor via a 79-14 beatdown at State Farm Arena.
The scoring came fast and furious for RGV, which opened up a 21-point lead fueled by four takeaways after just a quarter of play.
Roshawn Marshall, Sharyland Pioneer alum Alec Garcia and Mission High grad Josh Garza were the ballhawks who had first-quarter interceptions to bring the crowd to their feet.
Touchdown No. 1 of 13 came from the arm of former McAllen Rowe quarterback Renato Nunez to a slanting Darius Dorsey.
Nunez finished the night with four touchdown passes. The 2003 Rowe grad said this isn’t his first time on arena football turf.
Second-string QB Javier Femat matched with four of his own.
“I played four years ago with the RGV Sol. I was a back-up back then, but I have experience with arena football,” Nunez said. “It feels amazing to be out here with a home crowd. To get football back in the Valley again, it’s a blessing. I’m thankful and grateful and we just want to go for a championship.”
A Knights’ fumble set up an opportunity for another hometown Dorado to contribute. Once again a former Rowe Warrior, Adonis Cruz, made things happen for RGV.
Cruz, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Dorados, did something he’d never done in his career before: carry the pigskin in for his own score.
“That was my first touchdown. My whole life, I played O-line and never get the ball. But Coach said, “Hey, you think you could get it?’ I said, “Coach, you give me that rock and I’ll get that in for you, sir,” the 6-foot-2 lineman said about the play call for his 2-yard rushing score.
Cruz has been a football journeyman since his time at Rowe. Postgame, he said he was thankful to be able to play in front of familiar faces for the first time since he graduate in 2013.
“I have my brothers here, my dad and my family is here. It’s an experience I never would have had,” Cruz said. “I played in Texas A&M Commerce 14 hours away. I played in Cheyney University in Pennsylvania 32 hours away. I didn’t make it to the NFL or CFL, so I had to choose an arena team to get film. I came back home and it’s the best experience that I can have, ‘cause after the game I get to see my family, my friends and they get to show all the love I never got being away.”
The 3,192 fans in attendance for the first International Arena Football League game in the RGV pumped energy into the arena. A healthy, noisy crowd might have invoked nostalgia for those who remember high-scoring Dorados AF2 games a decade ago.
Defense sparked the offense early with seemingly endless takeaways and opportunities for the offense to continue the pace.
Garza added a second pick and score after executing the tip drill to perfection.
“The field is shorter, so the game is quicker,” Garza said. “Quarterbacks don’t have a lot of time, thanks to our D-line … it’s not just one person making plays; it’s my defense. We practice every single day, Monday through Saturday and it counts.”
By the second half, the players in RGV gold and blue were up 47-8 and well on the way to a blowout win. In the second half, the Dorados were dancing between plays and continuing to rack up points.
In the stands were plenty high school football players, many donning their lettermen jackets or even jerseys. Three high schools: Edinburg Vela, Mission High and Mission Veterans were honored at halftime.
PRESENTATION GRADE: NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
The excitement in the crowd was not deterred by some noticeable presentation hiccups. The game turf still had an ‘AF2’ logo at center field and both end zones had leftover paint from two different teams.
In the south end zone, closest to the locker rooms, there was exposed concrete that was out of bounds, but did not reach the padded boards.
On one occasion, the clock ran during a timeout, but officials were able to correct before play resumed.
The in-house sound system was difficult to hear, but with the beer flowing and the home team running away, no one seemed to mind.
The Dorados continue their IAFL season and two-game home stand Saturday when they welcome the Austin Wild for a 7 p.m. start.