ELSA — Running back Jared De Los Santos is plenty familiar with the rivalry between the Mercedes Tigers and the Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets. He’s played in the game before, but that was while wearing the black and yellow of E-E.
This time, the senior was in the orange and white of Mercedes after transferring.
He made his former team pay with two touchdowns Friday night as De Los Santos and the Tigers knocked off the Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets 31-19 at Benny Layton Sr. Memorial Stadium, extending Mercedes’ win streak in the rivalry to six consecutive victories.
“Any time Mercedes and Edcouch-Elsa get together, you know it’s going to be a battle ‘til the end. Jared prepares every game the same way, runs the same way, but you could tell there was a little extra fire in him today,” Mercedes head coach Roger Adame said. “You could see it in his eyes that he wanted this and he was going to go out there and do what he needed to do. He basically put the offense on his shoulders and said, ‘Feed me the rock and let me roll.’”
De Los Santos said he wasn’t too caught up in his emotions; his only focus was getting the win.
“I didn’t really want to think about the emotional part, I just wanted to get my mindset right and focus on the task at hand, and that was winning the game,” he said.
The Tigers received the opening kickoff, but it was Edcouch-Elsa which stormed out to an early lead. After forcing a three-and-out, Shawn Alvarado found the end zone from 4 yards away to put the Yellow Jackets in front 7-0 with 5:42 to play during the first quarter.
Mercedes was forced to punt again on its next drive, but the snap went over punter De Los Santos’ head, which he picked up and ran back for a few yards before being stopped shy of the first-down marker. After giving the ball back to E-E with a short field to work with, the Yellow Jackets added a field goal by Angel Crispin to take a 10-0 lead.
But Mercedes was able to find its groove offensively as their two quarterbacks, Horacio Pequeño and Mike Cisneros, took turns making plays.
Pequeño led his receiver into the end zone and Joseph Rocha laid out to make a diving 32-yard touchdown grab for the Tigers’ first points. Then in the second half, Cisneros was given a low snap at his feet, picked it up and followed De Los Santos into an opening for a 39-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.
“It was a give to Jared De Los Santos, it was a low snap, so I knew I had to get it and I just followed him. I just saw green,” Cisneros said.
“We started off kind of slow there, but there was no panic,” Adame said. “We feel we’ve been in games that got us prepared for this. It was a district game so we wanted to make sure we go 1-0. Obviously it’s Edcouch, so a little added fire for these seniors. They wanted to keep the streak going and it was important for our goals of getting into the playoffs, so it’s always important to win your district opener.”
Mercedes’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half as Edcouch-Elsa only managed to score on a 94-yard kickoff return after the break. The Tigers found a way to bottle up the Yellow Jackets’ ground game.
“Our D-line, it was just stop the run. We worked on it and we perfected it,” senior defensive tackle Marcus Garcia said. “Our linebacker core, our secondary — they made a lot of plays and our whole defense stepped up.”
Mercedes will take the field Oct. 4 as the Tigers host the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks (3-1, 0-0) at Tiger Stadium.
Meanwhile, Edcouch-Elsa will have to go on the road in Week 6 for a District 16-5A DII bout against Valley View. Yellow Jackets head coach Chris Navarro said he’s confident his team will bounce back and come out ready to play.
“We have to get better. In big games like this, we need to come out and be the players I know these kids can be, simple as that,” Navarro said. “We’re going to go ahead and continue to fight. We’ve done it since Week 1 all the way to Week 5. We’re going to go ahead and get better and win some games.”