MISSION — Despite kicking off the 2020 season months behind the rest of the state, it didn’t take long for Sharyland Pioneer to find its groove.
The Diamondbacks picked up right where they left off last season as quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger combined for six total touchdowns to lead Pioneer to a 49-28 victory over the McAllen Rowe Warriors on Friday at Richard Thompson Stadium.
“This was special today. I know everybody in the Valley is itching and ready to go and we’re just lucky to be one of the first ones in the RGV to kick it off,” Pioneer head coach Tom Lee said.
Pioneer opened the game by forcing a three-and-out on defense. Minutes later, Marburger scored his first of four touchdown tosses as he connected with sophomore wide receiver Joseph Graham on a slant.
Rowe’s next two offensive possessions ended with a punt and an interception. Pioneer made its opponent pay as Marburger found Gavin De La Garza in the left corner of the end zone for one score, and Taylor Esparza scored another touchdown on the ground for a 21-0 D’Backs lead.
Marburger finished the game with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns to Graham, one to De La Garza and another to Tristan Castillo.
“With Gavin and Tristan playing dynamic inside and our outside guys playing well, Eddie threw the ball well,” Lee said. “We had a couple of hiccups, but those are things we know are going to happen early in the year with where we’re at.”
Rowe, however, didn’t go down without a fight. The Warriors showed the intestinal fortitude that made them a playoff team last season by scoring 21 second-half points to keep things competitive. The Warriors’ defense also came away with two interceptions by Adam Alvarado and Diego Pacheco to bring their sideline to life.
“We just want to thank the good Lord for giving us the opportunity to come back and play this beautiful game of football. We knew it was going to be tough, coach Lee and the Diamondbacks are a great football team,” Rowe head coach Bobby Flores said. “We were happy to be out here, we knew it was going to be a tough challenge, but we just got to build off of this and learn from our mistakes.”
The Warriors’ offense was sparked by a diving Gus Cruz touchdown grab in the end zone just before the first-half buzzer for Rowe’s first touchdown. Then, the Warriors got rolling.
Running back Nicolas Meehan punched one in on the ground and wideout Jorge Diaz was the recipient of two touchdown throws from quarterback James Gamez in the second half as they went blow for blow with Pioneer’s offense.
While the loss wasn’t the outcome the Warriors wanted, Flores said he was proud of the way his team fought back.
“What we did positive was we didn’t stop fighting and that’s what I told our boys. We fought hard, we kept on trucking back, making plays, and that’s what we want to do, that’s part of the game,” Flores said. “We got to play four quarters to be successful.”
Rowe (0-1, 0-0) will return to Richard Thompson Stadium next week as the Warriors face Sharyland High at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, Pioneer will face the McAllen Memorial Mustangs in what sets up to be a barn-burner.
“We’re going to try to get better. We got a great McAllen Memorial team next week. We understand they’re a perennial playoff team and coach (Bill) Littleton does a good job with his guys and it should be a dang good game,” Lee said.