EDINBURG — McAllen Memorial senior running back Campbell Speights took a handoff up the middle, zig zagged around defenders between the hash marks and galloped his way to an 84-yard touchdown run.
On the next pair of plays, Memorial recovered an Edinburg Vela fumble on the ensuing kickoff and running back Freddie Briones bounced to the outside for a 2-yard carry.
Then, the lights went out in Edinburg … for the second time.
A trio of power outages — the first coming at halftime, the second at the tail end of the third quarter with 40 seconds on the clock, and the third 2 minutes into the fourth — derailed what had the makings of a flashy contest in The Monitor’s Game of the Week.
Instead, the Mustangs rode a strong showing on the ground and a lights-out defensive effort with the lights out en route to a 33-22 victory to hand the SaberCats their first loss to a Valley team since November 2016 in a uniquely bizarre affair Friday night at Richard R. Flores Stadium.
The last time Vela lost to an RGV team? When it fell 31-28 on Nov. 11, 2016 against Weslaco East in Weslaco in a bi-district playoff game.
The three-time loss of power resulted in over an hour worth of multiple delays in action, but that didn’t prevent the clash between Vela, the No. 1-ranked team in the latest RGVSports.com poll, and No. 2 Memorial from living up to its billing as a heavy-weight battle.
The Mustangs scored on the opening play of the contest, when defensive back Diego Villarreal ran the opening kickoff back 85 yards for a touchdown to give his side an early lead.
Memorial added on to that advantage during the first, thanks to a 32-yard touchdown scamper by Speights set up by an Omar Salazar interception of Vela quarterback AJ Sotelo’s first pass of his team’s second drive.
The visiting team ended the night with a collective 349 rushing yards on 42 carries, highlighted by Speights’ 222 on 19 rushing attempts and two scores. It’s the third time in as many games that the Mustangs’ workhorse back has eclipsed the 200-yard mark on the ground.
Each side added a touchdown before heading into halftime and the first of several power delays with McAllen Memorial out in front 19-6.
Between the first and second power outage stoppages, Sotelo and the SaberCats’ aerial attack came to life. The junior signal caller connected twice with receiver Justin Cantu — once from 16 yards out and again on a 42-yard bomb — to bring their squad to within one possession of the lead.
That’s when Speights reeled off his 84-yard sprint to the end zone before the second delay. Between the second and third stoppage, Vela forced a turnover on downs inside its own 5-yard line before Sotelo connected with receiver Justin Vega, who ran cross-field on a 63-yard reception.
That put the SaberCats at the Memorial 33-yard line before the lights went off in Edinburg for the third time, when they would have to wait for a considerable amount of time before resuming their drive.
They turned it over on downs in the red zone before regaining possession at the 27 after a badly shanked punt. But the Mustangs’ D stepped up when it needed to most, forcing a fumble at the 5-yard line that would have cut its lead to a single score.
Despite Sotelo delivering dimes through the air in the second half, the Memorial defense shut down the Vela offense for much of the night. The Mustangs limited Vela’s offense to 10-of-22 passing, stifled its rushing attack for 73 yards on 29 carries, forced a pair of key turnovers and tallied three sacks.
Memorial ultimately outgained the SaberCats 420-294 in total yards on its way to knocking off the top-ranked team in the Valley.
Edinburg Vela (2-1) returns to action when it hosts the Los Fresnos Falcons in its final non-district game at 7 p.m. Thursday, while McAllen Memorial (3-0) heads into a bye week before kicking off its district slate against the Mission High Eagles at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission.