When Mercedes and McAllen Rowe meet in The Monitor’s Game of the Week on Thursday, it will be a brawl between arguably two of the Valley’s most underrated and overlooked playoff contenders.
The Warriors opened up the season by going on the road and knocking off the second-ranked Weslaco High 44-41 in Week 1, while the Tigers played up against a formidable 6A foe in Edinburg North and came away with a 31-21 victory.
All indications point toward a high-scoring shootout between Rowe and Mercedes headlined by a pair of dangerous dual threat signal callers.
Senior quarterback Jonas Ortiz will lead the Warriors after posting an eye-popping stat line in his team’s come-from-behind win over the Panthers. Ortiz was the key to Rowe’s prolific offense in Week 1, completing 17 of 22 pass attempts for a mammoth 230 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
He also recorded a staggering 114 yards — more than half Rowe’s total rushing yards — on the ground off just seven carries.
On the other side, the Tigers will be led behind center by Michael Cisneros. The sophomore quarterback shined in his first start of the season against the Cougars, throwing for 270 yards and a touchdown on 28 of 36 passing and added another 60 rushing yards and a score on the ground on 14 carries.
Mercedes will also lean heavily on junior wide receiver Josiah Cantu. One of the top returning receivers in the Valley, Cantu tallied nine catches for 117 yards in the win over Edinburg North.
The junior wideout could be a real x-factor in this matchup given the explosiveness of the Tigers’ passing attack and the fact that Rowe struggled at times defending the pass against Weslaco while trying to contain dual threat quarterback Jacob Cavazos.
The Warriors, meanwhile, will be looking to ride another strong performance from sophomore running back Joey Partida. Partida had a breakout game against the Panthers, running a kickoff return back more than 80 yards for a touchdown.
He also had another key return late in the fourth quarter that gave Rowe the ball inside of field goal range and helped set up the game-winning touchdown. Partida and senior back Lorenzo Lopez give the Warriors an effective tandem in the backfield, which should help set up Ortiz for another big night through the air.
Mercedes and Rowe will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium with live gamecast coverage on RGVSports.com.