McALLEN — Due to some uniquely unforeseen circumstances, The Monitor and RGVSports.com staff had to make a last-second audible.

The McAllen Memorial Mustangs’ season opener scheduled for Thursday night against the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks was canceled less than an hour before kickoff due to COVID-19 concerns.

In response, The Monitor and RGVSports.com staff chose to cover the McAllen High Bulldogs’ season opener against the Mercedes Tigers at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium instead. Here are five key takeaways we learned from the Tigers’ 27-14 victory over the Bulldogs.

CISNEROS LEADS TIGERS ON GROUND, THROUGH AIR

Mercedes quarterback Michael Cisneros was the star in this one offensively, as he elevated his game to another level after his Week 1 performance against the PSJA North Raiders, a 33-13 win in The Monitor’s Game of the Week.

The Tigers’ junior signal-caller enjoyed an encore performance Thursday evening in McAllen, slicing and dicing a talented and physical McHi defense both on the ground and through the air.

Cisneros dove into the end zone on a QB keeper on fourth down and short for an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers on top 14-7 in the second quarter.

His elusive work scrambling out of the pocket and keeping it on the ground help prolong several Mercedes drives in key situations, but his work through the air showed even further progression.

Cisneros frequently connected with senior wideout Josiah Cantu, junior athlete Miguel Jimenez and sophomore running back Tyrell Treviño for several big plays downfield in the passing game, at one point driving 89 yards in 90 seconds and five plays to set up a big field goal, one of two for Mercedes on the night.

Mercedes junior quarterback Michael Cisneros heaves a ball deep downfield against McHi in a non-district game Thursday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium in McAllen. Roman Madrigal | Special to The Monitor

BULLDOGS HAVE BRUISING FRONT SEVEN DEFENSIVELY

The Bulldogs’ defense looked just as stingy as its 2019 iteration, which ranked as one of the Valley’s best in terms of points and yards allowed.

While McHi struggled at times in key third- and fourth-down situations to get the Mercedes offense off the field and shorten drives, its front seven shined.

Senior defensive tackle and two-time all-district selection Cirr Arredondo played a huge role in breaking up the Tigers’ inside running game, while senior defensive end Juan Corpus made his presence felt in the run game and the pass rush, frequently hitting Cisneros on his release and deflecting a number of passes at the line of scrimmage.

McHi’s linebacking corps, which features several fresh faces, also looked sharp against Mercedes between the tackles, but at times allowed big gains on outside runs and quick flare passes into the flats.

MERCEDES’ ADAME MAKING EARLY CASE FOR DPOY

Mercedes senior linebacker Brandon Adame seemed like he was in the middle of every big play defensively against the Bulldogs.

Adame, a 2019 first-team all-state pick, delivered a number of punishing hits to McHi junior quarterback Hunter Curl whenever he tried to step out of the pocket, earning the Tigers a few huge stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Without an official tally, it was safe to assume that Adame’s tackle totals easily surpassed a dozen in what was one of the Rio Grande Valley’s strongest individual defensive showings to date.

Adame was sidelined for part of the Tigers’ 33-13 season-opening win over PSJA North with what appeared to be a lower leg injury, but it didn’t seem to slow him down much Thursday.

The Mercedes senior and defensive captain was a big reason why the team clawed back from an early 7-0 hole to earn its second victory of the season and his sideline-to-sideline closing speed helped keep the Bulldogs’ electric offense one dimensional for a chunk of the night.

McHi junior quarterback Hunter Curl rolls out to avoid pressure against Mercedes in a non-district game Thursday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium. Roman Madrigal | Special to The Monitor

CANADA, MAGANA SHINE IN SEASON DEBUT, SHELBY’S OFFENSE

The Bulldogs had a pair of wideouts step up in big ways, specifically seniors Quinllion Canada and Felipe Magana.

Curl connected with Magana on McHi’s second drive of the game for a 70-yard touchdown pass that was fired down the left-hand sideline just out of reach of Tiger defenders.

Canada, meanwhile, led the Bulldogs in receptions and receiving yards in what was an impressive night for the two-way standout. The McHi junior wideout took over in the fourth quarter, helping lead the Bulldogs the length of the field twice in the closing minutes to set up a 25-yard touchdown run by Curl.

Canada also played a big game defensively at safety, keeping the Tigers out of the end zone on a few big tackles in open space.

DOMINANT DEFENSE, SECONDARY SEAL IT FOR MERCEDES

While Adame and the Mercedes front seven set the tone early on in this one, it was the Tigers’ secondary that secured the victory.

Mercedes forced a pair of picks off Curl and poked a couple of fumbles loose too, but weren’t able to do much with those.

The interceptions were critical, though. The first one early in the contest resulted in a 10-point swing, as the Bulldogs were held out of the end zone on what looked like a promising drive that later turned into a Mercedes field goal.

But, defensively, the play of the game for Mercedes came on fourth down in the red zone for McHi with under 2 minutes to play. That’s when Curl fired a bullet pass to Canada on a slant across the middle that was intercepted by Tigers’ senior defensive back Isaac Gonzalez to put the game on ice and give Mercedes its first road win of the season.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch