MISSION — The Monitor’s Game of the Week will again head back to Mission in Week 9 for a huge District 30-6A matchup with enormous postseason implications, as the McAllen Rowe Warriors (6-1, 3-1) will face off against the Mission High Eagles (6-1, 4-0).
The Eagles are coming off a dominant 30-13 road win over PSJA North, marking their largest margin of victory since a 55-8 victory over Donna North in Week 2. Mission’s win over the Raiders was the first to come by more than a field goal against a district opponent.
“I thought we played really well as a team, which was good to see,” Mission High head coach Koy Detmer said. “We had parts of the game where we played off each other. The defense would get stops and the offense would go score points. It was good to see us catch some rhythm and get in that flow.”
Eagles sophomore quarterback Jeremy Duran looked sharp behind center against PSJA North, completing 71.4% of his passes and was perfect converting on must-have fourth down conversions down the stretch.
Mission also benefited greatly from the backfield combination of junior Andrew Maldonado and senior Rene Anzaldua, who ran all over an imposing Raiders defense. The duo combined 110 yards and three of the team’s four rushing touchdowns on only 20 carries.
But the real story of the night was Mission’s defense, which has stepped up its play in recent weeks. The Eagles’ defense, which has looked shaky at times in big games, put the clamps down on the PSJA North offense, effectively eliminated its passing game and forced three turnovers which led to two touchdown drives.
Since allowing 31 points to La Joya Juarez-Lincoln during the opening half — the most points the Huskies had scored in a game all season to that point — the unit has not allowed a score in five of its last six quarters while pitching a second half shutout for the second time in as many weeks.
“Our defense did a great job starting us off right away on that first drive, then (the) offense got it and was able to put it in the end zone,” Detmer said. “I felt like our defensive guys did a great job of adjusting at half time. I don’t think they scored in the second half and that’s a credit to our defense.”
On the opposite sideline, the Warriors are reeling after a blown lead cost them their undefeated season, as the PSJA High Bears scored the go-ahead touchdown with about 2 minutes to go.
Rowe has suffered from a rough string of injuries that have made its offensive personnel cycle in and out week-to-week like a revolving door. But as they have all year, the Warriors benefited tremendously from younger players stepping up when needed to have a big night.
“We had some young (players) come in there, like Mark Villarreal at the cornerback position,” McAllen Rowe head coach Bobby Flores said. “The kid played his heart out. He and several young players stepped in there into new roles, and they did a great job. I’m super proud of that. We just need to get better and hopefully heal up in time for next week.”
Senior quarterback Jonas Ortiz played well against a much-improved Bears defense, tallying a passing and rushing touchdown in addition to 159 total yards of offense. Junior running back Joey Partida was also spectacular in his first appearance as the team’s featured ball carrier, running for a season-high 178 yards and two touchdowns on 16 touches.
But the real surprise for Rowe, like Mission, was the play of its defense and special teams units. The Warriors scored a touchdown after recovering a botched snap fumble on a punt attempt in the end zone and struck again later carrying a fumble past the goal line as well.
They’re hoping to build on that strong performance against a high-powered Mission offense and get some players back out on the field, too.
“We need to see who we’ve got back on offense. On defense, we’re just going to have to go back and see what they do and if they change anything from last week. They have some good players over there as well with Duran at quarterback and their big tight end (Rey Garcia).”
When the Eagles and Warriors meet on the field, the question will be which defense can more effectively contain the opponent’s prolific offense best. Duran and Ortiz rarely make costly mistakes, so even a small blunder or two could prove to be the difference.
This matchup will carry implications far beyond this week as well, as the winner of this contest will assume first place in 30-6A amid a crowded field of teams hungry for a district championship.
The Eagles and Warriors are set to square off against one another at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission.