McALLEN — After each of the first three quarters, the McAllen Memorial Mustangs found themselves trailing on the scoreboard against the McAllen High Bulldogs.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, the only score that mattered was the one at the end of the fourth as McAllen Memorial pulled off a 34-28 comeback win over McHi on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The victory is the Mustangs’ 11th consecutive win over the crosstown rival Bulldogs.
“I think tradition prevails. This bunch has a lot of tradition in front of them and they found a way to pull it out and we’re very proud of the way they played in the second half,” McAllen Memorial head coach Bill Littlleton said.
McHi (0-2, 0-1) last beat Memorial (1-1, 1-0) during the 2009-10 season. After one half Friday night, it appeared the Bulldogs were on the verge of breaking that streak.
McHi took a 13-7 lead into halftime after a touchdown run from quarterback Hunter Curl, and pushed it to 20-7 less than one minute into the third quarter after a touchdown runs wideout Caleb Killian.
But the Mustangs stormed back, outscoring McHi 20-8 over the final 12 minutes of the game.
“I told our kids at halftime we didn’t play very good in the first half. We made a lot of mistakes,” Littleton said. “I told the kids the good thing is we’re only down one play. If we go out there and clean up what we need to clean up, we’ll have a chance to win this game and show a little Mustang pride and that’s what they did.”
Junior wide receiver Marcos De La Cruz came up huge on two occasions for Memorial to spark the comeback. First, De La Cruz got behind the McHi defense on a play-action pass and hauled in a 57-yard touchdown from quarterback Zachary Hernandez. During the second half, he put his team up 28-20 as he took a reverse from left to right, hit the sideline and outran everybody into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
“We were down, so it’s crazy to come back. We had a lot riding on the game, 10 years, we didn’t want to be the team to lose it, so we took a lot of pride in this one,” De La Cruz said. “We knew we made mistakes and we could easily fix it, and the second half showed it.”
The Mustangs received the ball tied at 28 with just over four minutes remaining. Memorial methodically moved the ball down field and capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ethan Garcia to pull ahead 34-28 with just 28 seconds remaining.
McHi got the ball to midfield and attempted a last-second Hail Mary, but the pass was intercepted by Memorial’s Arturo Lozano as he sealed the game for the Mustangs.
Michael Lewis, Ethan Garcia and Derek Silva all recorded rushing touchdowns for the Mustangs, while De La Cruz contributed two more scores.
“This is step one of our district season. We came together as a team and it showed today. We got a lot to work on still, but we’re proud of today,” De La Cruz said.
Curl finished with two rushing touchdowns, while running back Killian scored another for the Bulldogs on a 64-yard burst up the gut. Senior receiver Quinllion Canada Jr. led the Bulldogs with more than 100 yards receiving.
McHi will look for its first win in 2020 next week when it faces La Joya Palmview (0-0, 0-0) at a time, date and place to be determined.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs will have a week off before they return to action Nov. 14 against La Joya Palmview.