The Mission High Eagles were missing a key cog in their offensive machine when they edged out a 13-10 overtime victory over the McAllen High Bulldogs on Friday night at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It was the first time the Eagles suited up for a full game without their featured senior back, Tito Moronta, who exited with a left ankle during the third quarter of the team’s district opening win against McAllen Memorial.
Moronta, who had surgery on his foot nearly a week ago, will not be able to return to action again this season.
“It’s unfortunate. He’s a great kid and has put a lot of hard work in and that’s tough to have to miss his senior year,” Mission High head coach Koy Detmer said. “But he’s a tough kid and he’ll bounce back.”
Before his season-ending injury, Moronta tallied a team-leading 356 rushing yards on 52 carries and 152 receiving yards on eight receptions to go with six total touchdowns.
During the Eagles’ first full contest without him, running backs Rene Anzaldua and Damian Cortez stepped up to fill his void. Anzaldua and Cortez combined for 19 carries and tallied 44 and 82 yards on the ground, respectively.
“Both guys did a good job against McHi,” Detmer said. “They have big shoes to fill, but both are capable guys.”
They added support to backfield mainstay Andrew Maldonado, who contributed 48 rushing yards on 10 carries.
BULLDOGS’ CURL GROWING QUICKLY AT QB
After a preseason quarterback battle dragged on into the regular season into McAllen High’s bye week, the Bulldogs seem to have found their answer behind center in sophomore Hunter Curl.
Curl played interchangeably at quarterback with senior Robert Amador, an all-district punter in 2018, through McHi’s three non-district contests in the first month of the season.
However, Curl appears to gradually be taking the reins in a more active role at the position since a big Week 3 loss to Harlingen South in which both quarterbacks struggled. Through the first two weeks of district competition, though, the sophomore signal caller has taken a majority of the snaps and has been the only Bulldogs player to attempt a pass during that time.
During that span, Curl combined to throw for 420 yards and three touchdowns on 34-of-57 passing with no interceptions. It’s a remarkably quick transformation for the young quarterback, who through the first month of the season had only recorded 97 yards through the air and a pair of passing touchdowns while completing 40.7% of his pass and struggling at times to hold on to the football.
The decision to lean on Curl has the primary starter has already paid dividends for McHi. He outdueled fellow sophomore quarterback Jeremy Duran in terms of passing yards (180 to 114) and completion percentage (10-of-20 to 15-of-29) when they faced off.
He’s kept the Bulldogs close late against a pair of teams in the RGVSports.com Top 10 Poll — McAllen Rowe and Mission — and will look to lead them to their first district win against the La Joya High Coyotes at 7:30 p.m. Friday in La Joya.
BEARS’ DEFENSE BECOMING ONE OF DISTRICT’S BEST
Going into The Monitor’s Game of the Week in Week 6, the talk was about PSJA High’s offense and PSJA North’s black-shirt defense. But postgame the story was all about the Bears’ defense of late.
PSJA High’s defense has improved drastically from non-district play, where it was continually burned by big plays against Flour Bluff and San Benito. Since the start of their district slate, however, the Bears have been playing a much more physical brand of defense.
The Bears sit at 2-0 in district competition thanks in large part to their scoring defense, which has only yielded 14.0 points per game in wins against the Coyotes and Raiders. It’s the lowest total number of points allowed by any defense in 30-6A entering Week 7.
Moreover, PSJA High has forced a staggering five turnovers in its wins over both La Joya and PSJA North. The Bears jarred lose six fumbles — recovering four — against the run-heavy Coyotes, coerced Raiders’ quarterback Iziaah Rangel into five giveaways (a fumble and four interceptions) and scored defensive touchdowns in each contest.
The mettle of PSJA High’s defense will really be put to the test this week with a matchup against the ground-and-pound rushing attack of McAllen Memorial at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Pharr.