MISSION — After a two-week absence due to COVID-19 concerns, Mission Veterans made a successful return to the football field as the Patriots rolled to a 50-23 victory over Roma Saturday at Tom Landry Stadium.

The District 16-5A Division I win is the Patriots’ first of the year, while Roma drops to 0-2 overall.

Mission Veterans quarterback Ricky Reyna showed little rust as the junior gunslinger threw three first-half touchdowns and ran for another score during the opening 24 minutes.

Justin Rodriguez was on the receiving end of three touchdown passes from Reyna as he consistently battled for contested catches, and showed off a bit of burst while doing so. Rodriguez finished with five receptions for 123 yards. Receivers AJ Gonzaque and Jaythan Barrera each made nifty catches early for the Patriots.

Gonzaque finished with one touchdown grab, while Barrera had five catches and a couple big plays in the kick and punt return game.

With the score in hand, Mission Veterans took its foot off the gas a bit during the second half. That didn’t stop the Patriots offense from putting up points, however.

Mission Veterans running backs Erick Estrada and Noah Garcia each added second-half rushing touchdowns to pad the Patriots’ lead. On Estrada’s score, the senior received a handoff early during the fourth quarter, sprinted toward the left sideline and turned upfield. After 60 yards, Estrada celebrated in the end zone after out-running multiple defenders for a touchdown that resembled a circus high wire act.

Roma rallied late with three fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns — two from Sebastian Garza and one from Eliberto Muñoz. Garza came on strong late as he found room right up the middle of the Patriots defense for a 55-yard touchdown, and added another one from 29-yards out on the Gladiators’ next possession.

Roma (0-2, 0-2) has an open week coming up as the Gladiators were previously scheduled to play Valley View, which has not begun its football season.

Meanwhile, Mission Veterans (1-1, 1-0) will prepare for “The Battle of Conway” as the Patriots are scheduled to face the Mission High Eagles (2-0, 2-0) in a non-district rivalry game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium.

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