Cardinals cruise to easy win over Patriots in season opener


HARLINGEN – On Thursday night, Harlingen High fans came out in droves to witness the Leo Tienda show.

However, it was quarterback Jesse Castro and running back Abel Castaneda who stole the show as both combined for 240 yards on the night and accounted for four touchdowns while leading the top-ranked Cardinals to a convincing 44-14 win over Mission Veterans in the Valley Morning Star’s Game of the Week.

“We always tell our kids that when your number is called, you’d better be ready to play,” said Harlingen High head football coach Manny Gomez. “Jesse and Abel came out and did that for our team.

“The quarterback position is a high-profile position here at Harlingen High and tonight Jesse was a gamer. He is a gamer and doesn’t know any better than to go full speed. Abel understands his role and tonight he played Harlingen Cardinals football. He is a hard-nosed kid and stepped up and ran the ball well.”

Castaneda got his team on the board first as he scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give Harlingen a 7-0 lead with 2:43 left in the first quarter. Castaneda, who finished the night with 71 yards on 14 carries, also ran one in from 8-yards out late in the second quarter.

Castro helped Harlingen extend its lead to 14-0 at the 6:50 mark of the second quarter thanks to his 63-yard touchdown pass to Samuel Duffy. Castro (9 of 16, 169 yards) also threw an 8-yard touchdown pass for his second and was pulled in the third with his team comfortably ahead 41-0.

The Cardinals accumulated 335 yards of total offense and got a solid all-around performance from their starters and even from the backups.

Tienda, who was pegged as one of the top runner in the Valley coming into the season, had a quiet night as he rushed for nine yards on five carries.

Harlingen was able to score in all three phases of the game thanks to a defensive touchdown, a field goal and a punt return for a touchdown.

Coach Gomez was pleased with the way his team played in its first game of the season.

“These kids are high-profile competitors and they came out to play Harlingen Cardinals football tonight,” Gomez said. “I would give our performance an 87 tonight if I had to grade it.

“We are always striving for As in both the classroom and on the football field, and our kids need to strive for that. But I was pleased to see that everyone played hard from start to finish.”

The Patriots’ offense didn’t throw in the towel as in third quarter quarterback Diego Hernandez found a wide open Jacob Guerrero, who ended up scoring on a 60-yard pass play to trim the lead to 41-6.

Vets added another touchdown late in the contest as Landry Gilpin scored on a 20-yard run to make it 44-14 with 15 seconds left in the game.