EDINBURG — Pablo Rivera scored three touchdowns to lead the Edinburg Vela SaberCats to a 35-18 victory in a non-district clash with Los Fresnos Thursday night at Richard R. Flores Stadium.
Vela, which won for the 31st time in its last 32 regular-season games, improved to 3-1 while the Falcons slipped to 1-3 with their third straight loss.
Rivera and backfield running mate Kevin McKinney combined for four scores and 196 yards on the ground for Vela.
“We got back in the habit of trying to establish the run,” Vela head coach John Campbell said. “McKinney did a good job. (Pablo) did a good job as well. I thought our offensive line performed very well. Our ability to run the ball and convert first downs was a big difference for us.”
Los Fresnos jumped on the board first when Hector Muñiz took a direct snap on a fake punt 82 yards on the game’s first possession. Vela’s Ivan Mendoza blocked the extra-point try.
The SaberCats went on to score 35 unanswered points to put the game away. Rivera ran up the middle for 23 yards to put Vela up 7-6. On the next possession, Rivera powered his way up the left side for a 2-yard run and a 14-6 lead after one quarter.
Vela led 28-6 at halftime on the strength of two more scores — a McKinney sweep to the right for 17 yards and a 35-yard catch by Justin Vega on a pass from Anthony Sotelo just 53 seconds left before the break.
Vela, which churned out 396 total yards and 21 first downs, added a TD in the third frame when Rivera capped a seven-play, 69-yard drive with a 9-yard catch from Sotelo.
Sotelo completed 8 of 11 passes with two touchdowns, giving him 10 TD passes this season. Chase Campbell also saw action under center, completing 3 of 5 tosses as he and Sotelo combined for 188 passing yards.
Kevin Rojas caught five passes for 102 yards.
The Falcons fought back, getting a second TD in the third quarter when Chris Resendez carried it in on an off-tackle play for 2 yards. The extra-point try was wide, leaving Vela in front 35-12. Resendez led all rushers with 116 yards 18 carries.
Los Fresnos quarterback Matthew Padilla ran down the left sideline for a 52-yard score in the fourth, cutting the lead to 35-18. The try for two points was no good.
The Vela defense helped set the tone early despite giving up a big play on the fake punt. The Falcons converted just one of 11 chances on third down (three-of-five on fourth down) and punted four times.
“We capitalized on a short field,” Campbell said.
Los Fresnos gained 328 yards, all on the ground.
Vela will open district play against Edinburg North next week. Los Fresnos will travel to face Odessa Permian in non-district action.