Pioneer defeats E-E, takes District 16-5A, DII title

Edcouch-Elsa Edward Cardoza (4) with a burst up the middle against Pioneer defenders Chismere Mallard (2) during the 16-5A Div.II first half of a high school football game at Richard Thompson Stadium on Friday, Nov.8,2019 in Sharyland. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor

MISSION — Sharyland Pioneer opened its doors just six years ago.

Friday night, the program won its first outright district title, recording its highest number of wins in a season and giving Tom Lee his first district championship as a head coach as the Diamondbacks took down Edcouch-Elsa 48-36 at Richard Thompson Stadium.

“Where we were at six years ago, a first-year school, we’ve had some good teams come through here, but this is a special group,” Lee said. “It started in the offseason, then in the summer with 7-on-7, I knew this was going to be a special group. The kids worked extremely hard, they’re together, they play very unselfishly. You can’t ask for anything better as a head coach. When you do things like that, play as a family, good things are going to happen.”

In a matchup featuring the Rio Grande Valley’s top offense in Pioneer (9-1, 6-0) against the top defense in Edcouch-Elsa, the first half turned into a shootout between the two playoff qualifiers.

The Yellow Jackets found success early with its slot offense as Shawn Alvarado, Edward Cardoza and Jay Cardenas each hit pay dirt for 20 first-half points.

But each time, Pioneer quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger and the Diamondbacks had an answer. On the Diamondbacks’ first play from scrimmage, Marburger ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run. He also dished out three touchdown passes, two to Luke Padilla and one to Lavar Lindo.

Edcouch-Elsa’s top-ranked defense entered the game with 43 sacks but was unable to bring down Marburger behind the line all night.

“The offensive line worked so hard and held everything together. Guys played very well,” Marburger said.

He finished with 214 passing yards, 181 rushing yards, five touchdown throws and two scoring runs.

“I play for one reason, and that’s for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Marburger said.

The Yellow Jackets’ patented ground game didn’t make anything easy on the Diamondbacks. An Edcouch-Elsa victory would have given them a share of the District 16-5A DII title. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t keep up with Pioneer’s fast-paced attack.

“They’ve really improved from last year to this year and all the credit goes to coach (Chris) Navarro and his staff,” Lee said of the Yellow Jackets.

The loss drops Edcouch-Elsa to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in district play.

“We wanted to come in here and be physical, hit them in the mouth, and that’s exactly what we did. Hats off to our kids, and hats off to them. It was a great game,” Navarro said.

Edcouch-Elsa finishes as the No. 3 seed in 16-5A DII and will face Corpus Christi Calallen (9-1, 6-1) in the first round of the playoffs. Time, date and location are to be determined.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks will play host to San Antonio Southside (7-3, 4-3) in the opening round of the playoffs. Time and date have yet to be determined. A win in the bi-district round of the playoffs would be the program’s first.

“That’s been our goal since Day 1. Our motto was ‘D.U.B.’ — that’s ‘Diamondback Unfinished Business.’ We were 1 yard away from winning a playoff game against Port Lavaca, so we’re hungry,” Lee said. “We have to take that same type of energy. Yeah, we won a district championship today, but we have to put that aside and get back to work because we have bigger goals and we have to take care of business next week.”