McALLEN — After months of ups, downs and plenty of uncertainty, Sharyland Pioneer left no doubt as to who the top team in District 16-5A Division II is this season.

The Pioneer Diamondbacks out-gunned the Mercedes Tigers 59-40 in one of the The Monitor’s Games of the Week on Friday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium to capture the 16-5A DII championship for the second consecutive season.

“After everything everyone’s been through this year, these are nice moments. I can’t thank my players and coaches enough,” Pioneer head coach Tom Lee said. “In the end, we played pretty good tonight. We didn’t play great defensively the first two quarters, but they came out fired up and inspired in the second half. We’re barely on Game 5 right now, so we’re still getting where we want to get to and we’re just excited to have the opportunity to play again next week.”

Pioneer is now 5-0 overall and finished as the only unbeaten in 16-5A DII at 4-0, while the loss was Mercedes’ first of the year.

The first half began as a duel between each team’s quarterback as Mercedes’ Michael Cisneros and Pioneer’s Eddie Lee Marburger stepped into the spotlight.

Cisneros threw three touchdown passes and ran for another for four first-half scores. But Marburger, the UTSA commit, matched Cisneros with four scores of his own — three on the ground and one through the air.

Defensively, the Diamondbacks saw the Tigers’ offense soar up and down the field during the first half, but that changed during the second. The Pioneer defense forced Mercedes to turn the ball over on downs twice in the Diamondbacks’ red zone during the third quarter, and Isaac Rivera came up with an interception to end another Tigers’ drive.

“Defense, we only changed one thing at the half, and that’s heart, baby,” Pioneer defensive coordinator Marcy De La Fuente told a fired up group of Diamondbacks after the game.

“We didn’t change anything. We just started playing for each other, started playing as a team and we just came together,” Pioneer senior linebacker Jay Palacios said after a big defensive game for the Diamondbacks.

Marburger finished with four touchdown passes and four touchdown runs, as Joseph Graham Jr. hauled in two scores, and Mike Ramos Jr. and JJ Snyman caught the others.

Through five games, the Pioneer quarterback has thrown 19 touchdown passes and run for 14 more scores.

“I give all the credit to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I play for one reason and that’s to glorify Him. And my O-line, they do a hell of a job every night,” Marburger said. “We just wanted to attack and not let up. The O-line, the receivers, they all make it easy for me because they all do their job incredibly.”

Mercedes’ Cisneros ended with four touchdown passes and one touchdown run, while senior wide receiver Josiah Cantu had two touchdown catches and a number of big plays to lead the Tigers.

Now, the Diamondbacks are headed to the Class 5A state playoffs as the No. 1 seed in District 16-5A DII. Pioneer has earned a bi-district matchup against the No. 4 seed from District 15-5A DII Medina Valley (4-5, 2-3). The Diamondbacks will host Medina Valley at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard Thompson Stadium in Mission.

Meanwhile, the Mercedes Tigers (5-1, 3-1) will match up with Floresville (3-6, 2-3) in the bi-district round. Mercedes will host Floresville at 7 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium in Mercedes.

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