As a youth, he used to watch highlights of Albert Preciado, back in the day, seeing how the 135-pound safety used to come up and knock people out, despite his size, or lack thereof. Now, Abel Moreno is following in the footsteps of the hard-hitting Econ ex, as a 150-pound strong safety who can flat bring the wood.
Moreno was at it again Thursday as the Jags (1-2, 4-3) hounded winless Donna North, 42-0, laying some heavy licks on his nine stops, and also showing his versatility with two tremendous punt returns, an interception, and three passes defended. In short, the rugged senior, impressive last year before suffering an injury, is making a strong bid for All-Valley football honors.
He definitely brings more impact than most guys his weight, according to teammate Rolando Alvizo, himself a dynamic tackler with a whole lot of “hurt ya.”
“Velocity is part of that,” advised Alvizo, also a high honors candidate in 2018. “He is fast and he gets that speed going and he can really pop you!”
All the Jags were hitting like their lives depended on it, and frankly, after a 0-2 start to district play, who could blame them? They had been beaten by league frontrunners Weslaco and Vela, so no shame there. But this was a must, and it became a win as the defense posted its fourth shutout of the season and its counterparts on the opposite side of the ball rolled to a season-best 307 yards and 42 points.
Senior Marco Plata helped the effort with his second defensive TD of the year, a 45-yard fumble return in the third period that gave the Jags a 28-0 lead. By then, Albert Guerra had completed 10 of 15 balls for 139 yards, including a 22-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Fernandez to get the party started in the first quarter. The Jags opened it up a bit against Donna North, and felt obliged to do so with Fernandez (four catches, 96 yards in the opening half) and Jonathan Martinez (three catches, 32 yards in four rushes) back from the injured list.
Now at full strength finally, the Jag offense looks more dangerous than at any time so far in the slate; they scored just 43 points through the first six games before nearly matching that total on one excellent night of work Thursday.
So the Orange is getting contributions from the regulars, but also from new faces. End Juan Contreras, too quick to be blocked on the edge by most linemen, notched two more sacks and caused another that was credited to senior tackle Fred Cantu. Offensively, both Rolando Rodelo and junior Gabriel Zapata turned in runs of 20-plus yards, and Rodelo was also a terror on special teams with two sharp tackles.
All the while, Moreno and Alvizo are the constants, each taking moments to play offense – Moreno had 27 yards on five carries, Alvizo an 11-yard catch – but starring on defense. Moreno ran like a gazelle to break up a Donna North pass in support, during the second half. Alvizo, occasionally lining up closer to the line of scrimmage from his LB spot now, has become a terrible obstacle to enemy passers with his leaping ability and timing.
And do not forget junior kicker Ram Gonzalez, who has a super strong leg that generally nets touchbacks on the majority of his boots.
Now it’s Edinburg High, a Friday night collision between clubs seeking to stay sharp the race and make up ground on the teams in front. The Wrecking Crew unit will get a chance to slow down the great Hearlin Benavides and elusive sidekick Erick Cano, though both are hobbled by injuries right now. The Jags will attempt to stay multiple, and this unpredictable, against a Bobcat D that proven its merits throughout the campaign.
Moreno just shrugged when asked whether he preferred offense or defense better – like, come on man, he’s a slim but deadly hitter, just like Preciado!
NOTES: The ‘Cats hold an 11-5 lifetime edge over Econ and have won the last two battles. The Jags took three straight from 2013 to 2015.