MERCEDES — The Mercedes Tigers (5-1, 3-1) are back in the Class 5A Division II playoffs, and with the postseason berth comes the opportunity to make right on the way last season ended.
The Tigers’ 2019-20 campaign concluded in a crushing first-round defeat after the Alice Coyotes scored 15 fourth-quarter points to beat Mercedes 21-17 at Tigers Stadium.
While the loss stung, it also motivated this year’s group.
The behind-the-scenes work has paid off for the Tigers, especially for their connection of junior quarterback Michael Cisneros and senior wide receiver Josiah Cantu.
“In the offseason, me and Mike were working together every day,” Cantu said.
And their on-field chemistry has torched defenses time and again this season.
In six games, Cisneros has thrown for 1,090 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, while running for 278 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Half of Cisneros’ touchdown passes have been hauled in by Cantu.
“In my opinion, he’s the top receiver in the Valley, and if they play man on him, of course I’m going to take a shot because I trust him and he trusts me,” Cisneros said of Cantu.
After last week’s high-scoring district championship game against Sharyland Pioneer, Cantu is up to 41 receptions for 509 yards and six receiving touchdowns on the year. Cantu also has 18 carries this season and nearly averages 10 yards per with 168 rushing yards.
Cisneros and Cantu also delivered their best games of the season against the toughest competition — battles against the rival Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets and the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks, the district champions.
“It’s awesome. They’ve been together for a long time now and they’ve got a special connection,” Mercedes head coach Roger Adame said.
Cisneros, Cantu and Mercedes are now set to put it on the line in a win-or-go-home situation against this year’s first-round playoff opponent, the Floresville Tigers.
Floresville (3-6, 2-3) finished as the No. 3 seed in District 15-5A DII after losing two of its last three games. Floresville enters the playoffs averaging 198 rushing yards and 131 passing yards offensively, but defensively has surrendered 40 or more points on four occasions.
Kickoff between Mercedes and Floresville is slated for 7 tonight at Tigers Stadium in Mercedes. The winner advances to the Class 5A Division II area round to face the winner of Austin Northeast Early College (3-4, 2-3) and Leander Rouse (8-1, 7-0).