McALLEN — When Mercedes and McAllen Rowe square off against one another in The Monitor’s Week 2 Game of the Week, it’ll be a matchup between two eerily similar offenses and for good reason.
Paul Reyes, the Tigers’ offensive coordinator under head coach Robert Adame, was previously a long-time head coach at Rowe. When he left the job and jumped across the Valley to Mercedes, Reyes took his offense with him.
So did his then-offensive coordinator — current Warriors’ head coach Bobby Flores — when he was promoted to fill Reyes’ shoes.
“He does a real good job with getting his offense ready. He does an excellent job coaching kids and that offense,” Flores said of Reyes, his predecessor. “It’s kind of a pure air raid with a lot of quick hitting and then stretching you deep. We’re going to have to play defense and we’re going to have to be able to slow down the big play. They’ve got a number of guys, so it’s going to be a challenge for us this week.”
The two men are intimately familiar with each other’s offensive systems after dialing up plays together and working alongside each other for years. But when the Warriors and Tigers meet at 7 tonight at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium, more than just bragging rights will be on the line.
Both Mercedes and Rowe run up-tempo, no-huddle spread offensive attacks, so when the two teams meet the outcome will be decided by whose tailored personnel runs the system smoother and more effectively.
“They’ve got a good explosive offense and their defense is very sound, too,” Flores said. “They have a lot of returners there and coach Roger Adame is a defensive-minded coach, so he has those guys very well coached and sound and fast. They’re good all the way around and we’re going to have to be able to match up and be able to play smart on both sides of the ball doing things well fundamentally.”
With each squad captained by one of the Valley’s most elite dual-threat quarterbacks, this matchup has the opportunity to develop into a high-scoring shootout barring any inclement weather come kick off.
The Warriors are led by senior quarterback Jonas Ortiz, who’s perhaps the most experienced returning starter behind center throughout all of District 30-6A. Ortiz looked incredibly sharp during his junior year and first full season as the team’s starter, completing 63.8% of his passes for 1,777 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air in just eight games.
“This year I personally feel that I’m a much smarter quarterback than I was before. Not physically better, but way better mentally,” Ortiz said. “This year I’m mainly trying to not force throws, knowing what to do with the ball and knowing the situation I’m in.”
In last year’s contest in Mercedes, Ortiz threw for 287 yards on 24-of-33 passing, ran for another 77 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns in a 48-19 win over the Tigers.
In his first game action this season, the third-year signal caller dazzled again and appeared to have taken another big step forward, accounting for 230 yards through the air, 114 on the ground and four passing touchdowns in a come-from-behind win at Weslaco High. He credits the big opening week offensive performance to the cohesion and experience of his offensive unit.
“It brings some energy to the team and it helps our team out a lot,” Ortiz said. “It gives not just me confidence, but our whole team confidence. It helps us run as a group.”
On the other side, the Tigers are led behind center by sophomore Michael Cisneros who had a breakout performance in a Week 1 win over Edinburg North. In his first career varsity start, he tallied 270 passing yards on 28-of-36 passing, 60 rushing yards and a rushing and passing score each.
Without much to go off in terms of game film, Cisneros could be a difficult player to prepare for in a short week before a Thursday game. He’ll be buoyed offensively by running back Jared De Los Santos and junior wide receiver Josiah Cantu.
De Los Santos, a senior, ran for 50 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries, while Cantu hauled in nine catches for 117 yards.
“They’ve got some athletes,” Flores said. “They’ve got a good running back, quarterback and another good receiver, so they’re a good team. We’re looking forward to another tough challenge.”
Both teams enter the contest feeling snubbed from being overlooked as serious playoff and district title contenders in the early going. The Tigers and Warriors will both be looking to prove their prowess on the field and elevate their perception with a 2-0 start.
“We try to keep our composure and play our game like nothing outside of here is going on,” said Rowe junior receiver David Savage, who had two touchdown receptions against Weslaco High. “I feel like it’s going to be one heck of a game and I’m hoping we can pull through with a W.”