Fightin’ Fish Again: PI Surging Toward Playoffs With Old-School Mentality
BY GREG SELBER
He’s starting to see what he and the staff have been looking for the past two years, and that doesn’t necessarily mean just football wins. For Monty Stumbaugh, the 11th-year coach at Port Isabel, the indicator has always been attitude and in 2011 his Tarpons have the fighter mentality that the gulf mascot is known for, not to mention the one the program has employed to such incredible success over the past three decades-plus.
“They are reminding me of the teams I had when I first got here,” said Stumbaugh, whose 3-1, 6-3 club clinched a playoff spot last week and will vie for at least a share of the District 32-3A title Friday on the road at Rio Hondo. “They are aggressive, they will get after you, and they love to play. I think this started last year with some seniors like Blake Sapp, and now these kids, even though they’re young some of them, they are looking like the Tarpons again, a team that will come out and just play hard, let it all hang out, and not care who they’re playing against.”
For a team that is used to winning and winning big, 2008-2009 was a major downer, as the Tarps missed the playoffs twice in a row with 4-6 seasons, after having failed to advance just three times since 1973 up to 2008. Last season they worked against the odds to make it back to the postseason, losing in bi-district to Robstown, and now, Stumbaugh has no idea how far PI will go, but he likes his chances every week. Because the old, feisty Tarps are back.
“They have a lot of enthusiasm, they have camaraderie, we all look forward to coming to practice and that isn’t always the case with some teams,” said the folksy veteran coach who has continued the program greatness established by Tommy Roberts, Alex Leal, Tony Villarreal and others during the school’s run as the top sub-5A team in the Valley since the mid-1970s. No team in any class has won more postseason contests than PI.
“Last year we weren’t supposed to do much, everyone counted us out. But we managed to surprise some folks. This group has taken what that one started and they have run with it, they knew we wanted to get back to where we felt we needed to be, which was playing hard, flying to the football, and showing our pride in the program. This has been a good year so far and I am proud of these kids.”
Now, when Stumbaugh says “kids,” he isn’t kidding, because a full one-third of the roster is composed of sophomores, including three big-timers who came up to the varsity in 2010 as 9th-graders. Along with the fine unit of youthful stars, the Tarps have some solid seniors who have taken the leadership responsibility, making this year’s PI contingent a contender for the league title once again.
“People keep saying ‘Next year, next year,’” Stumbaugh chuckled. “But really, we tell these kids that this year is now, and we can’t wait until next year. Right now our JV is undefeated in district and there are some good little players down there. So next year will be good, but these kids here, well, they want to win now. And that’s part of that old-style mentality I am talking about. We have some guys who grew up wanting to be Tarpon football players, who take it seriously, and who are itching to win. They aren’t worried about next year, let me tell ya.”
YOUTH IS SERVED
As stated, the Fightin’ Fish are rich in underclass talent, with a trio of guys who stand a chance of being four-year starters; in defensive end Jacques Guillot, linebacker Esteban Montelongo and running back Juan Aguilera, Stumbaugh has some of the same mega-athletes the program has ridden to deep playoff runs in the past.
“We felt like they had the ability to play so we just threw them in there, said let’s go get it, to see what they could do,” he said. “They just had to realize that they could do it, and soon they did. And with all our young kids we take the same approach, we tell them that they’re not rookies anymore and that they have no excuses. To their credit, our sophomores have done that real well, they have gotten better every week. And so has the team.”
After a 1-2 start following losses to Edcouch-Elsa and Corpus Christi Miller sandwiched around a sharp win over Lyford, PI has come on, starting with a tense 28-21 victory over Raymondville on the road Sept. 16 and extending to a 4-1 showing from there. Stumbaugh has never been one to sugar-coat things, saying that the Tarps “stunk up the field” against Miller and came out “way too flat” in a 1-point loss at La Grulla Oct. 14. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing.
“We have been able to come out and have that chip on our shoulder, that edge you need,” Stumbaugh said. “It doesn’t mean you play dirty, but it means that you’re all business and you come across that line and hit somebody every play. I think we’re doing that right now, and I expect Rio Hondo to do the same. That’s always a heckuva football game, a rivalry, and it was that before I got here.”
As the Tarpons prepare for the Bobcats, who are also 3-1, 6-3, they bring a style of play that reminds observers of the glory days. A gutty running club who will use multiple backs, and a tough defense that hits.
“It ain’t rocket science,” Stumbaugh laughed. “We are going to line up and run it, no Spread here. And if we make five yards on it, you’re probably gonna see it again next snap.”
PI has a bunch of quality backs including Aguilera and senior leader Matt Martinez, with sophomore Isiah Martinez running the show at quarterback. Stumbaugh saw the latter Martinez as a freshman and knew he had his guy behind center for three years to come.
“He’s not very big, maybe 5-7, and 140, but he’s stronger than he looks. That kid is tough, and he is shifty, he gets in the crowd and then, boom, finds a crease and off he goes. The big thing about Isiah is that the kids follow him, they believe in him. I told him from day one that he might have to slap some helmets, he had to come in and make sure it was his huddle, nobody talks but him. And we think he’s done a fine job so far.”
Up front, the team has two huge sophomore tackles but then relatively small kids with little depth. The group has performed ably though, especially the past month, led by senior Aureliano Silva, who starred in the La Feria win, and tight end Erick Trevino, a lanky senior who is an excellent blocker and occasional big-play threat as a receiver. The Tarps will use a double tight end set at times, and make no secret that they look to run before worrying about the pass.
“That line has been good, and we have stayed healthy, knock on wood,” Stumbaugh commented. They’re smaller than we have been in the past, heck, it seems we get smaller every year somehow, but they are strong kids, all of them. And they will get after you.”
Guillot, who is from the long line of star athletes in the family, started at linebacker last year but was moved down to end in 2011 to he could take advantage of his natural athletic ability. Paired with classmate Miguel Ramirez, he has provided the team with a real outside-edge warrior; at 215 pounds and with good speed, Guillot has a chance to join the pantheon of PI greats before he’s done. He and the lanky, high-motor Ramirez rank at the top of the team tackle charts.
“I always have believed you need real good ends or you’re going to be in trouble,” Stumbaugh said. “That’s where a lot of teams attack you. Our ends have been super all year. Guillot is more free down there to make plays, to just play his game, while at linebacker he had to make so many reads, I think the move has been a good one for us.”
One reason the defense was able to change up the mix was depth at linebacker, where the Tarps shuttle in up to five guys a game. Montelongo, one of those freshman phenoms, is a hard-hitting sort who embodies the positive meanness that Stumbaugh was looking for. “He’s kind of a throwback to the Old School. He’s ornery, sure, but not dirty. He just wants to play, and I think he loves the game more than a lot of kids, he lives for it, and it shows.”
Middle ‘backer Danny Medina has enjoyed a solid season on the comeback trail from a knee injury suffered last year in the finale against Rio Hondo, which the Tarps won. Aguilera, Jose Garza, James Ramirez and Jesse Mondragon are also contributors here, as Stumbaugh reports: “We have plenty of depth at linebacker and with the skill guys. And next year we will have some on the line. We have been fortunate this year with few injuries.”
The senior bunch is strong in the secondary where Alan Barrera and Roger Villarreal hold forth. Barrera is a steady player and perhaps the most experienced hand, while Villarreal is a little dude who makes big tackles.
“He’s been a leader for us, a physical kid who will pop you even though he ain’t that big,” said the coach. “We have Luis Aguilera, too, his cousin is Juan, he’s turning into a really good free safety. Bunch of kids play there, like Kenny Herrera, Javi Vela, and Zach Reeves, we have some good ones and they all get in.”
Bottom line, Port Isabel is gunning for some playoff success this year, and in 2012 too. Stumbaugh and his staff are seeing the old spirit and good cockiness that made the storied program almost impossible to stop until the hiccups of 2008-09. With a rough and ready crew that has total belief in the mission, PI will travel to Rio Hondo to see what’s what.
“I guarantee that game will be fun to watch because both teams are going to be hitting hard and getting after it,” Stumbaugh concluded. “We just expect a heckuva high school football game between us two.”
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The Playoff Round Up
Three of four playoff spots have been clinched in District 30-5A.
McAllen Memorial, which knocked off Donna 24-17 on Friday night at Bennie La Prade Stadium, looks to conclude a perfect regular season and claim the district championship outright with a win next week against La Joya Palmview. Sharyland locked up its playoff berth with a win on Friday night by blanking La Joya High 49-0. The Rattlers travel to McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium on Thursday for a regular-season finale matchup with McAllen High, which secured its spot after its 31-7 victory over La Joya Palmview on Friday at La Joya ISD Stadium.
The final playoff spot will go to either the Donna or McAllen Rowe, which are tied for fourth place with 3-3 marks. The Redskins hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors, so with a win against Mission High on Friday, Donna would advance. Rowe would need to defeat La Joya on Thursday and have the Eagles upset the Redskins to advance.
If the Redskins advance, Sharyland and Donna will be Division I representatives. The Rattlers would be the No. 1 seed and would likely face Laredo United in the first round. The Redskins would play Del Rio. McAllen Memorial and McAllen High would enter as Division II representatives. The Mustangs would be the top seed and would likely face either Laredo LBJ or Eagle Pass. The Bulldogs would be pitted against Laredo Alexander.
If the Warriors advance, the Rattlers and Bulldogs will be in the Division I bracket with the winner of their game being the No. 1 seed, while Memorial and Rowe would go Division II.
Laredo United, Del Rio and Laredo Alexander have all clinched in District 29-5A.
Come Week 10, there’ll be no worrying for Harlingen High, PSJA North and PSJA Memorial, which have all punched its tickets to the postseason. The Raiders and Wolverines clinched with their wins over Edinburg Economedes and Edinburg High, respectively, in Week 9.
The Cardinals will be looking to claim their fourth straight district title with a win on Thursday night against PSJA Memorial. The Raiders, who trails Harlingen by one game in the district standings, can claim a share of the district championship with a win Friday against PSJA High and loss by the Cardinals.
The final playoff spot in the district is up for grabs and could be a difficult one to figure out. Edinburg High (3-3) could make it easy with a win against Harlingen South (2-4) at Boggus Stadium, which would put the Bobcats in. If not, expect a headache.
With the Hawks, PSJA High and Edinburg North all sitting at 2-4 in the district standings, there could realistically be either a three-way or four-way tie. Positive points would then decide the final playoff spot.
However, the Bears and Cougars appear to be left out of the equation regardless if they win. If Edinburg High, Harlingen South and PSJA High end up a three-way tie, that would make the Bobcats-Hawks matchup a winner-take-all game. If Edinburg High, Harlingen South and Edinburg North end up a in a three-way tie, the Hawks would need to defeat the Bobcats by six points or more. If Edinburg High, Harlingen South, PSJA High and Edinburg North end up in a four-way tie, the Hawks would need to defeat the Bobcats by four points or more.
If Bobcats advance, Harlingen High and Edinburg High will be Division I representatives, while PSJA North and PSJA Memorial will go Division II. If the Hawks advance, Harlingen High and PSJA North will be in the Division I bracket, while PSJA Memorial and Harlingen South will be Division II representatives.
The Cardinals are locked in with a matchup against Los Fresnos in the first round.
Unlike its Valley counterparts, there are no headaches in District 32-5A. Weslaco High, San Benito, Los Fresnos and Brownsville Pace have all clinched postseason berths thanks to its Week 9 victories.
The Panthers will look to secure their second consecutive District 32-5A title with a win against Brownsville Pace on Saturday. The Greyhounds, who trails Weslaco by one game in the district standings, could still claim a share of the district championship with a win against Brownsville Hanna on Friday and loss by the Panthers.
Regardless, San Benito and Los Fresnos will enter the postseason as Division I representatives, while Weslaco and the Vikings be in the Division II bracket.
The Greyounds’ first-round opponent will depend much on the outcome of Friday night’s Edinburg High-Harlingen South game. San Benito, the top seed in the bracket, would play Edinburg High if the Bobcats win. If the Hawks get in, the Greyhounds will be looking at a matchup with PSJA North. Los Fresnos, meanwhile, is set for a date with state-ranked Harlingen High.
Weslaco will be the top seed in the Division II bracket and face PSJA Memorial if Edinburg High defeats Harlingen South. Pace would then get PSJA North in the first round. If the Hawks win, the Panthers would play No. 2 seed South, while Pace will draw PSJA Memorial.
Weslaco East, Edcouch-Elsa and Rio Grande City are all headed to the postseason.
On Friday night, the Wildcats defeated the Yellowjackets 31-14 at Bobby Lackey Stadium in a highly-anticipated matchup between unblemished district records. Weslaco East handed Edcouch-Elsa its first loss of the season and can claim the district championship outright with a win against Hidalgo next week. The ‘Jackets can still claim a share of the district title with a win against Mission Veterans Memorial and a loss by the Wildcats. The Rattlers punched their ticket to the postseason after its 35-15 win against Hidalgo on Friday at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium.
The final playoff spot will likely come down to Friday night’s winner between Roma (4-3) and Mercedes (3-4). The Gladiators, who are seeking their first-ever trip to the postseason, are in the best spot to make the playoffs. A win and Roma is in. If the Wildcats defeat Hidalgo (3-4), that would make Friday’s Gladiators-Tigers matchup a winner-take-all game. If the Pirates upset Weslaco East and Mercedes defeats the Gladiators, that would force a three-way tie and would come down to positive points. Hidalgo is currently at -10 points, Mercedes at -2 points and Roma at +12. But Friday’s game would still need to be factored in for the Tigers and Gladiators.
What is certain is that Weslaco East and Rio Grande City will enter the postseason as Division I representatives with the Wildcats being the top seed. Weslaco East will face Alice in the first round, while the Rattlers will travel to Corpus Christi Flour Bluff.
Edcouch-Elsa will be the top seed in the Division II bracket and will take on Kingsville King, while whoever clinches the fourth playoff spot will face top seed Corpus Christi Calallen in the bi-district round.
Alice, Calallen, Flour Bluff and King have all clinched playoff spots in District 31-4A.
Two spots have been locked up in District 31-3A.
Orange Grove and Raymondville will head to the postseason in two weeks. The Bulldogs will travel to Burnet Stadium on Friday to face the Bearkats in what will be for the district championship. Orange Grove will dethrone Raymondville as District 31-3A champions if it defeats the Bearkats. If Raymondville defeats the Bulldogs, the Bearkats would claim a share of the district title.
The final playoff spot is up for grabs between Corpus Christi Miller and Lyford, which share third place at 2-2 marks. The Bucs, however, hold the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs based on its head-to-head victory.
In order for Lyford to get in, it must beat winless Robstown on Friday and then have Raymondville lose if Miller defeats Corpus Christi West Oso. That would force a three-way tie in the district standings, and based on positive points, the Bulldogs (+25 points) will advance. Lyford could also get in with a win and Bucs loss to West Oso. The Bulldogs could also miss the postseason entirely if Raymondville and Miller both win.
If Raymondville, Orange Grove and Lyford advance, the Bearkats will be the big school. If Miller advances, the Bucs will be the Division I representative.
Three teams will be vying for two playoff spots come Friday.
Port Isabel is the only team that has clinched a playoffs spot. The Tarpons (3-1) will take on Rio Hondo (3-1) in what will decide at least share of the district championship. A win by the Bobcats and they’re in.
Zapata (3-1), with a win against Grulla, could also claim a share of the district title. A win would also put the Hawks in.
That’s the easy part.
The Gators, who is seeking their first playoff appearance in only their second year, could complicate things. Or not. A loss to Zapata would eliminate Grulla entirely. A win by the Gators would put them in regardless.
If the Bobcats fall to the Tarpons and Zapata defeats Grulla, the Bobcats and Hawks advance. If the Bobcats fall to the Tarpons and the Gators beat Zapata, Rio Hondo would be eliminated based on positive points.
The Hawks would miss the postseason if they lose to Grulla and the Bobcats defeat Port Isabel.
If Rio Hondo and Zapata advance, the Hawks will be the Division I representative.
If Grulla advances, it will enter the Division I bracket no matter any other outcome.
Port Isabel is locked in as a Division II representative.
BY GREG SELBER
You know, offensive lineman are the salt of the earth, the long-suffering but hard-working campesinos de campo, getting dirty and bruised in the trenches while the Pretty Boy backs and receivers get all the headlines. Such is life, and most linemen can accept that; heck, they even embrace their anonymity, choosing to focus on in-group, peer-to-peer assessments and accolades. In real English, that means they are pals who are more concerned with having each other’s backs than appearing in the highlight reel.
But good units up front mean titles, and maybe that’s why Raymondville is high in the 31-4A standings right now. The Bearkats can tie for the league title by taking out Orange Grove Friday night, and if they do so, here it sez that Joe Gonzalez should be in the mix for Valley Coach of the Year.
Gonzalez, who replaced The Venerable One, Alex Leal, has done a whale of a job in the face of multiple obstacles, the biggest being the midseason loss of star-in-the-making Josh Cantu at QB. The ‘Kats are poised to return to the playoffs, win or lose in the finale, and a big part of their somewhat surprising success has been outstanding work from the underappreciated hogs.
The top performer there has been Rafael Rubalcaba, a 265-pounder who follows the OL tradition of scholars by being ranked fifth in his junior class. The imposing tackle has been a steady influence as the team has searched for stability in the wake of the injury bug, dominating his position against three preseason All-Valley defensive foes, and making sure that fill-in quarterback D.J. Quiroga can count on some time to do his thing.
So next time you go to a ball game, spend some time watching the big men do their job. They might not really care, but you never know.
As for the league race: let’s say that Raymondville loses to Orange Grove, dropping to 3-2 in league, while 2-2 Lyford and Corpus Christi Miller win over 0-4 Robstown and 1-3 West Oso, respectively. That would mean a three-way tie for second in 31-4A, and based on positive points, the Buccaneers would be the odd man out. Miller would go in Big School with the two Valley units in the Small School bracket. Lyford is going to stomp winless Robstown unless something crazy happens. But if the Bulldogs finish tied with Miller, they will be in trouble, having lost 56-48 to them earlier.
Over in 32-3A, looking for the Game of the Week is easy, as Rio Hondo hosts Port Isabel with all kinds of playoff trimmings at stake. The Bobcats rallied from 13 down to beat La Grulla with oft-injured speedster Jorge Bermudez coming back into the picture with a flourish to provide the necessary spark. Tarps-‘Cats is a killer match, as both teams are 3-2, along with Zapata. Don’t bet against Rocky James’ squad now that the whirlwind that is No. 15 is back in action.
With East’s huge lambasting of Edcouch Friday night in the books (and that is still a startling thing to contemplate), the 32-4A contest is looking more clear. Right now it appears that the Wildcats will get Alice in bi-district, and judging from the Coyotes’ 61-3 loss to Calallen this weekend, East should be the heavy favorite. The ‘Jackets seem poised to take on a decent Kingsville unit; if we know Joe Solis, his team is going to come up with murderous intent from here on out.
I think that if East played E-E 25 times, maybe twice could we expect the blowout that unfolded in such shocking fashion, one for each team. No one could have suggested the 31-point haymaker that the Wildcats landed Friday, except maybe Aaron Munguia. And that dude is plumb crazy. Crazy good, that is. Hollah, 23!
Rio Grande City deserves a lot of credit for its performance in 2011, meaning that along with Gonzalez of Raymondville, Carlos Longoria is going to get some Coach of the Year consideration, and rightly so. After all, this club was 1-9 last year, people. The Rattlers are a solid third in the loop, and will come into the postseason with East into the Big School group, versus Flour Bluff, an inconsistent but dangerous squad with a reasonably well established playoff pedigree.
As for the other Division II spot alongside Edcouch, can it be that Mercedes is looking like a possibility? The Tigers have had the talent all season, and are now playing like Coach Mike Uribe imagined they could. This week it’s there for them, with Roma coming to town for a winner-take-all encounter. Now, it Hidalgo manages to upset East the situation will change, but the Pirates have probably lost their legitimate shot. If that is the case, they can point to a 13-8 loss to Mission Vets early and a 42-30 defeat at the hands of Roma late as the culprits. Now that Michael Alvarez has taken over the reins, Hidalgo is a better ball club. But it looks like too late for this season.
Looking ahead in the 4A playoffs, no one wants to have to play Port Lavaca Calhoun, ranked sixth in the state and unbeaten on the year; the Sandcrabs are the tops in 30-4A with the team from San Antonio Brackenridge, one of the oldest programs in Texas, sitting atop District 29-4A. PLC goes small while The Brack is Big, for future reference.
Though they suffered the irony of being eliminated even after a win Friday, props go out to the Edinburg North Cougars, this year’s version of the Hard Luck Crew. The Coogs rallied to nip Harlingen South 42-41 at home to rise to 2-4 in District 31-5A, after Joel Cuellar capped the Game of a Lifetime with his fifth touchdown run inside the final minute, adding his second two-point conversion for the exciting W.
North has been so close so often that it must be tough to deal with. But Roy Garza is the sort who can handle it. He’s a warrior and his staff has done an excellent job of tinkering with the attack, running with the roster strength, and getting the most of the kids, including consistent motivation against long odds. Show me a team that fights to the end of the season with the same intensity it started with, and I will show you a program that is steady and professional, solid. North has it.
As for the rest of the league, Harlingen can become the first Valley team to average over 50 points per game in the regular season with 14 against P-SJ-A Memorial Thursday. Good buddy Eladio Jaimez of The Valley Morning Star brought that nugget to my attention last week, and let’s face it, that defense and special-teams group usually accounts for a couple of scores itself by halftime. Against P-SJ-A it was Tadeo Rodriguez on a blocked punt return courtesy of Nathan Prado. Smooth receiver Randy Bermea even got into the specialty act, blocking a field goal try. Note for later, Grant Gorman converted a field goal for the Cards but the team missed two extra points. If the Cards want to win the close ones, they simply have to get more consistent there. Stevens.
Funny thing…if anyone can hang with Harlingen right now, why not Los Fresnos? The Falcons are on a roll, having unleashed budding stars in Jonmichael Rosales and Akeem Simien. Everyone knows about Cris Galarza and powerpack Ed Ramirez, but the aforementioned duo has been something else lately. Los Fresnos rushed out to a 21-0 lead before Pace had its helmet on, and that was that sort of like East-Edcouch. And Memorial-Sharyland.
Surely Los Fresnos is a longshot against Harlingen, who wouldn’t be? But don’t be surprised if the Cards get a decent challenge in the first round, and that is a good thing for them, actually.
Pace, meanwhile, is in the Dance, but the Vikings (4-2, 7-2) need a credible effort Saturday afternoon at home against 9-0 Weslaco to avoid going into the playoffs on a downturn. The coaches have to preach that the Los Fresnos game was an aberration, and no one is better at playing that game than Rene Medrano. Pace doesn’t have to win Saturday, but another one-sided defeat will be the harbinger of bad tidings ahead, one assumes.
Hats off to Coach Michael Ramirez and the Lobos of Lopez, who have turned it on late in the year and get their third league win in the finale if they can take out Rivera. That squad has made rumblings this season, and perhaps next season it can vault into the league race. That last-second win against Hanna was money.
Brief, unrelated sporting interlude…stupid damn Rangers…OK, enough.
30-5A: TURNABOUT OF SORTS
Remember when we wondered publicly about McAllen’s chances of being the odd man out in the case of a deadlock at the middle of the 30-5A standings? Well, current tabulations work much better in the Bulldogs’ favor. At 4-2 heading into a difficult home match Thursday against Sharyland, Coach Tony Harris’ club is in there. If they lose to the Rattlers, they will be 4-3, and if Donna (3-3) beats 0-6 Mission while Rowe (3-3) takes care of business versus 1-5 La Joya, all three would be knotted for two of the three remaining postseason slots after Memorial and Sharyland, with Mac in and Rowe losing out by positive points.
So barring an unlikely Redskin flub against Mission, it looks like Rowe instead of McAllen as the unlucky combatant. The Bulldogs got another INT touchdown from Phillip Cantu, no word this time on how many yards the frenetic Harris got on the play. Cantu also caught three balls for 72 yards and another six. Dude makes plays.
More next week on the playoff situation regarding District 29-5A, suffice to note that at press time, Laredo Alexander is the king of the hill and should be able to get past always tricky Laredo United in the finale. Big Schools from 30-5A given the likely result would be Donna and Sharyland, against Del Rio and United, respectively. Alexander will probably be joined in Small School action by an average Eagle Pass group, with the latter getting a rematch against Memorial in the first round.
BOX SCORE HIGHLIGHTS
Zach Flores came off the bench for South and fired for 234 yards, with super soph Nick Garcia catching nine for 175 to match Tevin Brown (seven for 133) of the Coogs.
Simien of Los Fresnos continues to push for All-Valley, with three receptions for 88 yards plus a 68-yard Pick Six. There were a bunch of defensive scores this week, and Rowe got a huge one on Bobby Alejandro’s 40-yard INT return. The Warriors forged ahead of Mission for good with field goals of 28 and 24 yards by Juan Gomez in the fourth period.
Weslaco took advantage of Porter for two defensive scratches, with 45-yard and 74-yard Pick-Sixes by Kevin Garza and Ernesto Tafolla, respectively. And a guy over there in the Mid-Valley, Matt Alvarez, has become a big-play regular. He hauled in a 20-yard pass from Carlos Madrigal to start the parade versus the Cowboys and later ran 40 yards for a 21-0 lead.
It was a busy week for the bevy of productive Valley kickers, Los Fresnos’ Miguel Cruz nailing three field goals and recovering an onside kick to boot. Joaquin Garcia of South kept his club close with makes from 32 and 18 while Kristv Martinez converted 37- and 34-yard efforts for Edinburg. All-Valley kicker will be a close race but can you vote against steady Jose Arzate of McAllen, who is now in double figures after a 25-yarder against Donna?
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LISTEN LIVE: DUNN IN NET, BEES FACE BUCKS 7:30pm
The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees will once again face the Laredo Bucks as they continue the hunt for their first win of the young season. The Bees will turn to Dan Dunn in between the pipes. Last night Laredo held off the Bees for a 4-3 victory. Jake Hauswirth scored twice and Aaron Lee scored once in the Bees defeat.
Strong Side, Landslide! Wild Cats Wipe Edcouch Off The Field With Total Romp
BY GREG SELBER
WESLACO – With 15 seconds to go, the domination complete and the East Side party starting to percolate, the last E-E incompletion in the books, almost the entire Wildcat team surrounded their coaches and the returning defenders at the 50, 20 yards onto the field.
It seemed like half of Weslaco was out there, even though the game technically wasn’t over (though it had unofficially been history by halftime). Even injured ‘Cats on crutches were hobbling around, fired up, swarming their teammates and not wanting to miss a moment of what might just end up being the best night of their lives.
Seriously, who could blame Weslaco East for breaking into a joyous mosh pit a nudge before the night was through? After absolutely destroying Edcouch-Elsa Friday, putting the skeptics to silence once again, and very likely keeping the District 32-4A trophy in town instead of “over there,” the Wildcats had every reason to be crowing.
They came out and potted Edcouch like a fern, from the opening whistle to the final gun. The 31-14 final seems respectable, but those who were there know the truth, which is that the Wildcats threw the first punch, the second, and the third. They simply erased the Yellowjackets, no other way to say it. KO.
From the maniacal power running of Aaron Munguia to the jarring hits of linebacker Chris Belmares, from the speedy heroics of Brandon Hernandez to the pancake factory led by head baker Carlos Cuellar, the effort was flawless. What was supposed to be a to-the-death struggle between two undefeated 32-4A powers turned in an eyelash into a one-sided clinic, with the Wildcats doing the teaching.
Now East has been one of the Valley’s top programs for the past few years, but by its indication feels a bit underappreciated for its successes. Last year the club went three-deep, 11-2 but it seemed that all anyone could talk about was the loss to Mission Vets and The Hit on Bobby Gonzalez. Before that it was, “They can’t win the big one, blah yada blah.”
So heading into the biggest test of the year, with huge throngs of rooters from both schools lining up way, way ahead of time to get in for the show, the Wildcats advanced into war with a chip on their collective shoulder. The motivation was there.
“All year long they have been talking, saying how good they are, that they’re back, but we don’t really do that stuff much,” said Belmares, the helmet-breaking three-year starter who made 12 tackles Friday. “We just wanted to show up and play our game, and we knew we could do this. Just go out there and beat them. Everyone was talking about their defense and we were like, ‘We have the No. 1 defense in the Valley.’ The thing is, we just wanted to come out tonight and show them what’s up!”
To be precise, the Wildcats were indeed first in lowest average yield per game through eight weeks, with E-E No. 1 in fewest points allowed. Friday, after holding the speedy ‘Jackets to 77 total yards in a first half stamped for added significance with fast-breaking scores from the offense and special teams, that East D had hammered home Belmares’ point.
E-E would gain 237 yards and put 14 points on the board after halftime, but it all came in garbage time. In Prime Time, East was so good it was scary, with linebacker Derek Andrade joining Belmares in the hit parade, the Wildcat secondary covering like a glove, and undersize tackle Jose Luna causing all kinds of hell inside. It was 28-0 at the half, 21-0 after seven minutes. It was shocking. It was a huge performance from East, a champion’s performance in the clutch.
It was ugly, people. Ugly…in a beautiful way, depending on what side of the field you manned.
So with time running out and the Wildcats waving bye-bye to their neighbors from the north, the whole dang crew met at the 50 for a little pre-party…it might still be going on as we speak.
A LONG-AWAITED RENDEZVOUS
This one needed no advance hype, with the two best sub-5A teams around going head to head with the league title up for grabs. Edcouch in particular was ready to show that it is back; after a down year in 2009 and a solid 8-4 season in 2010, la Maqina Amarilla seemed dead set on returning to the apex of the heap, and came in having scored 40 or more points six straight weeks, good for an 8-0 record. With fast backs in bunches and some big, nasty defenders to match a powerful O-line, this has threatened to be the best Edcouch club since the 2003-2008 juggernaut churned out 62 wins against just 10 defeats.
East, on the other hand, had weathered an early loss to a San Benito team that has proven to be very good in 2011, and other than that was unblemished, with similar stats to the enemy’s on both sides of the ball. Also, the Wildcats had won the last two meetings between these bitter rivals, and were looking for more. They most def wanted to keep their hold on the title shared with Vets in 2010. Take it for themselves, in fact.
Judging by the deafening roar that erupted from the blackclads in the visitors’ stands at Bobby Lackey Stadium when the ‘Jackets came out, one might have thought the armies of Hannibal were approaching from off the Alps. Few programs travel better than E-E, and since the bout was a neighborly affair, they came in droves from down 88 or 1015, or maybe even 83, knowing that the eyes/ears/cellphones of the Valley would be on them this night.
That spine-tingling mass rumble lasted all of 17 seconds, thanks to senior Wesley Rowlett of East, who took the opening kickoff and raced 73 yards for a touchdown with nary a scratch on him after the fact. Before the people could sit down, Edcouch was down, 7-0. Instead, the noise now emanated from the East side; though the Wildcat faithful would not quite fill its side of the bleachers, the fans over there were loud and crazy from the start, enjoying this bludgeoning like few other nights in program history.
Though the ‘Jackets seemed determined to rebound after the quick break by Rowlett, the nightmare was just beginning. Alonzo Toscano was separated from the ball on the ensuing kickoff with a murderous crash, East finding the gift at the E-E 22 with again, the game just having begun. Or set on the path to Ended, it turned out. Two plays later, East had a 14-0 lead at 10:53.
Having come into the night with some injuries to deal with among the troops, Cuellar and his staff had stressed that the Wildcats were going to do their best and let the chips fall where they may. Perfect poor-mouthing, following the longstanding coaching tradition forged by cagy vets like Jesse Longhofer and Alex Leal. They tell you they just want to give the other team a good ball game, and then they clobber them with a whoopin’ stick. Cuellar belongs in that select group…man, those dudes are clever.
Andrade came up to demolish Israel Loredo on the first play after the kickoff, and the gunshot echoed through the park. It wasn’t that Edcouch didn’t hit hard Friday, it was just that East was a team possessed, its kids throwing their bodies and striking the ball-carrier with deadly intent every single play. Seldom has an E-E team been so thoroughly outclassed in this category; the difference in intensity was striking.
Edcouch punted after a single first down, as on second and third downs, the same trio of ‘Cats arrived at the man with the ball and proceeded to pummel him. Luna, Fabian Villarreal, and Jesus Martinez formed the trifecta, and they are all outstanding players. Luna is a stumpy little dude who moves like the wind, submarining and dipping his way under and through the trees to make play after play. Villarreal is a very athletic linebacker who made six tackles in the opening minutes of the game, while Martinez is an inside force to go with Luna. The threesome spelled punt.
Two plays later, it was over.
Brandon Hernandez, who will spell starting QB John Arevalo at times in the Wildcats’ Wildcat, got loose for a 74-yard run through gaping space created by the Valley’s best offensive line, and at 6:14, it was 21-0.
A sea of silent, ashen faces could not utter a sound on the ‘Jacket side, after East had run all of five plays from scrimmage to assume a commanding 21-0 bulge. It was somewhat like the way McAllen Memorial had knocked out Sharyland back on Oct. 14, except it came in flashes of brilliance, not sustained marches. And like that one, a Mustang win despite a late Rattler comeback, Edcouch would storm to a pair of pride TDs late, to no avail.
The ‘Jackets began their next series in a stunned stupor at their own 40. No one in her right might would have predicted such a devastating blitzkrieg, and yet, here it was.
Toscano, who would collect 92 yards on the night with Loredo adding 101, got free for a 20-yard gain down to the East 37, and was there going to be a game here after all? Motion call, two 2-yard gains, and the ever-present Luna swooping in to sack E-E passer Eric Morales for minus-7. Drive over, punt, and adios la Maqina. Extraordinary. Simply extraordinary.
The Edcouch D had spent the half trying to stand in against the breakneck strides of Munguia, the Valley’s leading rusher and, it must be said, one of its great characters. Brash, street-wise/funny, and all of a sudden solemn as an executioner, the 170-pound senior is a beast wrapped inside a genius tucked into a monster when he gets the ball. Some backs shed tacklers, but Munguia is the type who shreds them, attacking the hole with a full head of steam, pads low, delivering punishment to would-be tacklers. Punishment, Jack, the dude hits you, not the other way around!
Still, the ‘Jackets, with a handful of trusty stars on a defensive unit that had allowed a measly 50 points in eight wins, was laying some licks. Linebacker Juan Villarreal would end up with 11 tackles with mammoth tackle Alvin Lofton (seven) and brutal LB Luis Hernandez (eight) having their moments.
But from the start, Cuellar and the rest of the linemen for East were clearing the way for Munguia, who will bang his way through anyone in his way, hole or not. The ‘Jackets did their best to gang-tackle No. 23, but after a workmanlike 160-yard effort, they could not say they did the job.
On one first-period carry, Munguia cemented the theme for the night’s work, dragging Lofton (280 pounds, easy) and corner Cipi Medina on his back for a 7-yard gain. At another point, in the second quarter, he raced to the E-E sidelines and like any good Halloween phantom, disappeared between two tacklers at the sticks, swooshing past the substitutes on the bench so fast it left just a vapory sound. The E-E backups just gaped open-mouthed at the deftly dodging Munguia, who bounded back onto the field almost before the whistle had finished blowing, chuckling to himself and nodding up and down at his teammates; that’s the thing about him, he has the power to burn, but speed and moves as well, with a dash of cocky that screams, “You can’t stop me.”
He is the best back in the Valley. Has to be.
But even the best can screw up. The Wildcats took the ball after Luna’s sack and subsequent Edcouch punt, and marched downfield. They reached the enemy 39 when Arevalo, a veteran who always manages a solid ball game, found Peter Gonzalez for a 14-yard advance that turned a third-and-seven maybe into a sure thing, first down. The ‘Cats don’t pass a ton, but they can do it, and do it well. Arevalo is a big kid with strong hands, and he has been in the money games before.
At 9:35, Munguia eyed a first down but got too excited, fumbling the ball away for what had to be the first mistake East had made all night. The teams came into the contest with matching 2-to-1 turnover ratios, and there were few miscues of that sort Friday.
After this one, Edcouch again got one first down and was forced to kick, this time courtesy of some fine defense from Villarreal, Belmares, and junior D-back Darek Martinez, a heady sort who has been in on six turnovers in 2011.
Taking over on its 40, East was about to put the thing to bed. Earlier in the quarter, Hernandez of E-E had reached Hernandez of East, sliding in and trapping the junior for a modest 3-yard gain out of the Wildcat, slamming the back down with authority.
The next time those two met, it would be different, and the result was, turn out the lights. Hernandez penetrated quickly and had a bead on Hernandez, looking like he had him. After a nifty bounce-out, it was apparent that he “didn’t had him.”
Off to the races sped the other Hernandez, and 43 yards later, it was 28-0 at the 1:58 mark of the half. Fans: pure, unbridled joy versus venomous, seething despair. It would be hard to imagine a more dichotomous situation. History, folks. Before the half. Wow! Like the NBA Shaq once warbled, “Cannnnn you diggggg it?”
ALL OVER BUT THE DETAILS
The second half. Was there one? Not really. East got a field goal, Edcouch rallied with two fourth-period scores, including a super 92-yard roll in three plays capped by a swerving right-to-left sweet one from Toscano, who is a fine little back.
That score made it 31-7 at 11:16, as the East D Belmares is talking about shut out the vaunted E-E attack for three periods-plus. Morales, who had a tough night against the unrelenting pressure and seemed to pass when the run might have been better, and vice versa, found Noe Gonzalez on a short TD flip at 5:33. Morales is a tall junior who has had some terrific moments this season; he is surely going to be a factor in the team’s playoff run because he’s got skills. But against East it was just not happening for him and his friends on offense.
For most of the evening, seasoned senior Gabriel Garcia, Darek Martinez, and flashy junior Joshua Cardova manned a Wildcat secondary that came to hit and cover. There was just not much there for E-E until that late, largely meaningless rush for two TDs. For the game, the stat sheet says 325 yards for the ‘Jackets, 339 for the Wildcats. It was not that close, folks. In fact, it was not close to close.
In the aftermath, the victorious Wildcats were living the life of kings, Munguia singing the school song with a good-looking gal hanging on each arm. Now that’s high school football, brother! Coach Cuellar greeted a cadre of well-wishers from the school board and local government, smiling and shaking hands and looking as emotional as his taciturn, measured way will allow. It was a fine scene, unmitigated happiness after a win that has solidified once and for all this program’s bona fides.
“We never say we are anyone else, we are who we are,” Cuellar said. “I keep asking myself what we have to do to get people to see what we are doing over here, to give us credit. But the bottom line is, the kids did a great job against a dangerous team, and they deserve this. I am so proud of these guys.”
“All that talk all year, well, we didn’t say a word, but we came out motivated tonight,” hollered burly Mike Burget, the coordinator whom Cuellar happily calls his “right hand man.”
“They said they were going to come over here and take the trophy home,” the energetic mastermind yelled with what was left of his voice. “It’s staying here…where it belongs!”
It was Munguia and Arevalo who offered the two ways to interpret this amazing victory. Amazing not for the result, because East is a fantastic club once again, but amazing in the way it happened. Total knockout blow, no chance for E-E to get up. They never did.
The senior QB suggested that the work the kids did in the week leading up to the Bum Rush of the ‘Jackets was the key, and would have to be duplicated in the run-up to the season finale against Hidalgo. The ‘Cats can clinch the title all for themselves with a win over the competitive Pirates.
“That’s a good team, real good,” he said, referring to the ‘Jackets. “But we were so ready, we worked like crazy all week, practiced so hard for this. There was no walkthrough, I’ll say that.”
And Munguia, that Munguia! Some folks, like the astute Mike Gonzalez of the Mid-Valley Town Crier, dare to suggest that with his hard-charging style, the East stud reminds them of former Harlingen legend Maurice “Mo” Hunter. Understandable, because as you may recall, Mo used to love to dish out pain when he toted the rock. Definitely, Hunter was way faster than Munguia is. But still. To be mentioned in the same breath is a damn nice lick.
And don’t think that the Wildcat banger doesn’t appreciate that. He too lauded the work ethic of the entire team coming in, saying that even when the coaches tried to get them into shorts and helmets, the ‘Cats wanted to bust out the full pads.
He now has 1,744 yards and without a doubt has joined the program’s recent Hall of Stars which includes Andrew Alvarado and Bobby Gonzalez, 2,000-yard masters of yesterday. After the game he turned to wink at The Observer during the school song, obviously still in orbit after such a tremendous performance at the most opportune time.
But the signature of the night had come when Munguia approached the self-same Observer during the second half, on the East sideline. Blowout in progress.
All up in his grill, hard-core, No. 23 barked a question.
“Hey! Who did you pick to lose!?” He knew I had spent the first half on the E-E side.
The answer was, “Ummm…yawl [ducks].”
With a growl, Munguia took another half-step into the reporter’s space. Adrenaline is a fascinating thing.
“Well, looks like you’re on the WRONG side, buddy!!”
It just don’t get no better than that!
Wrong side, not Strong Side. Andale, and good night.
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The Huddle Episode 13
Tony and the crew talk about the upcoming week in football and playoff predictions. Join us at 8am for the show or watch on demand anytime.Share this post:
Edcouch Elsa vs Weslaco East Full Game
Weslaco East ran past Edcouch Elsa from the opening kick off scoring twice in the first four minutes. Technical difficulties made it impossible to record the 1st quarter.
Mercedes vs Valley View Full Game
Hidalgo vs Rio Grande Full Game
Rio Grande City defeated Hidalgo at home Friday night solidifying a spot in the playoffs.Share this post:
Week 9 Scores
Texas vs Killer Bees Listen Live 7:30pm
The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees travel northeast to face the Laredo Bucks in the first of the teams 17 matchups this season. The Bees look for their first win of the young season against their arch rivals. This season comes with a twist however as long-time Laredo boss Terry Ruskowski is now on the other side of things as the new head coach of the Killer Bees.
The Bees are coming off a tough weekend against the Missouri Mavericks falling 2-1 and 5-1 to start the season. Zac Pearson and Aaron Lee potted the two goals for the Killer Bees over the weekend. Laredo split a weekend series in Arizona against the Sundogs winning game one before falling in game two.
The Bees also revamped the roster some this week as forward Aaron Boogaard was assigned to the Bees by the Houston Aeros of the AHL. The Bees waived goalie B.J. O’Brien and placed Tomas Klempa and Tim Billingsley on the 10-Day Injured Reserve list meaning neither player will be available this weekend.
The Unsinkables: Wolverines KO Bobcats To Clinch Playoff Spot
BY GREG SELBER
EDINBURG – Everyone counted them out from the beginning, it seemed, after substantial graduation losses following the finest season in the history of the school. When they started District 31-5A action 0-2, everyone said, OK, see?
But lo and behold, “they,” the Wolverines, are in the playoffs once again, thanks to a nail-biting double-overtime win against the Edinburg Bobcats here Thursday night. “Everyone” needs to recognize.
When Manny Mancillas punched in a 1-yard touchdown in the second overtime, Memorial (4-2, 6-3) had rallied four times for a clutch 38-34 victory on the road, and can rest easy with state-ranked Harlingen on the schedule next.
“I am so proud of these kids, they got picked seventh before the season started but they never let that get them down,” said Coach Gus Cavazos, whose bunch is looking at a likely first-round postseason date against Brownsville Pace. “It tells you how much they have worked…I mean, coaches all coach, we do our best, so the difference is how hard the kids are willing to get after it. These kids, well, I would say that they have outworked everyone, and now they are back in the playoffs. They earned this!”
Mancillas made all the right moves in leading his club to the Dance. He was 22 of 31 for 240 yards, including 10 for 141 to elusive Jeric de la Cruz, as the Wolves smartly used star receiver Jaime Borrego as a decoy much of the time. The junior Mancillas hit de la Cruz on a 31-yard score to tie the game at 24 halfway through the fourth and Memorial withstood a last-minute EHS drive to send the game into extras.
On Memorial’s first OT score, it was a 15-yarder to de la Cruz that converted a fourth-and-10 snap, leading to a 5-yard run from Borrego. After the Bobcats (3-3, 5-4) answered with two fourth-down conversions of their own – one a 24-yarder to Sal Martinez on fourth and 22 and then a super catch by Robert “Twigs” Olivarez for a 9-yard TD on fourth and six – the Wolves gave up a field goal and then managed the six, forging ahead for the triumph and sending EHS into a must-win assignment next week at Harlingen South.
EHS, consistently hurt by penalties and mental lapses once again, led 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, and 24-17, but could not hold off the quickness and deft playmaking of the visitor.
“They dared us to pass, with seven in the box and man outside, so we had to do that,” Cavazos said. “They have a really good defense but Manny has come a long way and he stayed cool for us, made the throws we had to have.”
Mancillas, glad to have the “s” restored to his name after weeks without it due to media malfunction, was as relaxed after the game as he seemed during it. The lanky, curly-headed kid just takes what comes, and makes it happen.
“We could’ve won one or two of those,” he said about the team’s 0-2 beginning, 4-point losses to Pharr North and Edinburg North. “But we just had to come back and win some. Four in a row now. Coach told us never to put out heads down, just to keep working and have faith, never stop fighting. As for me, I never get too crazy out there, I just try and relax, see the field, and go.”
QUICK GAFFE, QUICK REBOUND
When it started, the Wolverines were green to the gills on a huge night, for a game between two foes that came in knowing that a win would clinch a spot in the playoffs from 31-5A. Memorial fumbled it away on its second play with linebacker Adam Alonzo (13 tackles) grabbing it for Edinburg, which had won three in a row since its own 0-2 start.
Newcomer Alex Trevino, a quick little cat who attacks the hole well, jetted 19 yards around left end for a score at 11:40 to give the Bobcats the quickest of leads, at 7-0.
Memorial answered with a mammoth 18-play drive that carried 80 yards for the tie. The EHS D had allowed just 34 points the last four outings, and has been improving every week. But the Wolve OL carved out time for Mancillas to pick it apart with the short-passing game. A fourth-and-six ball to de la Cruz got seven, as Cavazos’ club executed better than the ‘Cats all night in key situations. Soon, Fernie Garza scooted 12 yards at 4:34 for the tie at 7.
For the third possession in a row, a solid march ensued with the ‘Cats sailing 77 yards in 13 snaps, the linchpin being a 26-yard bootleg ball from Ramon Enriquez (10 of 17, 150 yards) to tight end Zach Faires. Before EHS could take the lead, a terrific hustle play from Victor Montemayor had saved the day; the junior runner hopped on a fumble by teammate Arnie Alvarado at the Mem 14, and four plays hence the former barreled in from the 1 at 9:11 of the second.
Not to be denied, Memorial countered with a smooth 66-yard excursion in 12 plays, and at its culmination, Mancillas avoided the rush, stepped up, and fired a bullet to de la Cruz for a 16-yard TD on third and 16. He never gets flustered, and on this play, Mancillas felt pressure from the right, but did not panic. Instead of letting himself be flushed out of the pocket, he merely stepped up and over, buying the extra second it took to locate de la Cruz floating right to left. Just a super football play by both.
After trying to establish its patented running game with average results, EHS took to the air with disastrous results, as senior Eli Barrera intercepted at the Bobcat 24 late in the quarter. But the Bobcat D held on, leading to a field goal miss at 1:58.
Coach Joey Caceres’ guys almost took the momentum into the half, as a 35-yard wounded duck found its way into the mitts of Anthony Acosta at the Memorial 23. But Kristov Martinez, who would make two field goals on the night to increase his season total to eight, pushed a 40-yard attempt barely right at the gun.
With a half in the books, Memorial seemed quicker, Edinburg more powerful. Score tied, yardage close and as befitting a Week Nine showdown with marbles to win, anybody’s ball game moving forward.
‘CATS FIND A WAY
When you’re playing Edinburg, always keep in mind that this program wants to Old School you to death. And in the third period the ‘Cats did a nice job of gaining a field-position edge. They pinned the Wolverines deep twice, with Enriquez’ second boot traveling to the 1. When the Green could not move it, they did something shaky, something they had avoided doing for most of the game to that point.
They punted to Super Sal.
And he made them pay.
Martinez fielded the Mancillas kick at the 36 on the dead run, swooped outside with a flourish, and glided down the left sideline for a big six, juking some poor sucker at the 10 with the lightning shimmy of a limp leg and hip, and moving on. Though some might say Martinez has been up and down in 2011, there is no doubt that the senior star has the game-breaking ability to change any gridiron dynamic. Thursday he made 13 tackles, an interception, and the punt return TD, his third by either return or pick on the year, and at 3:38, it was 21-14, ‘Cats back in front.
The problem for the home side was, every time it scratched, there was that damn rebel Memorial team refusing to die, giving it 110 percent, and coming up with meaningful efforts. Cavazos has instilled his own brand of stubborn into the squadmen, the good kind, and so when they face an obstacle, they just get fired up.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something!” he would holler to his jubilant kids after the win. Still later, he would tell reporters, “No one knows our kids better than we do, we stick with them and they stick with us.”
This time the offense drove down for a three-pointer to get to within four, with passes to Borrego (for 11, his only catch) and Carlos Horta (for 17, he was effective all night) as the engine. Only a huge tackle-for-loss by backup defender Andrew Solis prevented the Wolves from the tie.
Edinburg then matched the field goal with one of its own, a 37-yarder from K. Martinez, who pounded touchbacks all night and has kicked like a veteran all year, instead of the sophomore he is. Faires caught a key Enriquez pass and the ‘Cats benefited from a facemask call as well. As on Memorial’s drive to the earlier kick, the drive stalled on a solid defensive effort, this one in the manner of two hard hits by Wolverine soph LB George Trevino.
So it was 24-17, Edinburg with 7:48 to go. Would the ‘Cats hang on to clinch, as many experts had surmised, or would the upstart Wolverines parlay their grit and determination into the road triumph?
After an 80-yard drive in eight plays, the answer seemed like the latter, as Mancillas picked on the Edinburg corners for perfect spirals to de la Cruz, the last of which went the aforementioned 31 yards at 6:07. Though tackle Johnny Espinoza (10 tackles), S. Martinez, and Alonzo were active, with LB Matthew Guerrero playing his best game all year with a dozen stops, Edinburg had holes in the makeup, especially in the secondary. Truly, last year’s All-League strong safety Teddy Lara, no longer with the team, has left a void. The corners were not at tip-top form.
In the lategoing, Enriquez boomed a punt 64 yards to the Memorial 1, but the Wolverines found a way out of the Danger Zone, with Mancillas again exploiting the EHS corners for a third-down conversion. Memorial punted away from the electric Martinez, and the kick went out at the Wolve 40 with 0:18 left.
But Edinburg, needing a first down to give Martinez, who’s hit a 49-yarder in 2011, a shot, came up incomplete on first down, followed by a terribly timed holding flag. With eight seconds left the ‘Cats jumped offside, and the next snap started with 0:06 left, in error. A 36-yard gainer to Favian Quintanilla went to the 19, but time ran out, with the crowd grumbling about “two seconds.”
The consensus among the sideline throng of media types was that there was no clock controversy, as the long bomb took more than eight seconds to complete. As a famous nasal-voiced announcer once intoned, “The foul stench of overtime hangs in the air.”
THE DIE IS CAST
It’s always thrilling to have the extra period, and its outcome usually comes down to two things: execution and fatigue. One team is going to make the plays and avoid mistakes, often because it is fresher in leg and mind.
Memorial got the enormous fourth-down success from the unstoppable de la Cruz (29 catches coming in, now 39) and took the lead at 31-24. Despite suffering a 10-yard sack on his first try, Enriquez gutted it up nicely and on fourth and 22, he whistled a sidearm pea to Martinez, who came back for the ball against double coverage (including Mancillas) and darted for the first down amid much mad glee from the home faithful.
Olivarez then picked an amazing time to make his first catch of 2011, a leaping stab at a tough chance in the right quadrant of the end zone, and it was 31-31.
When Memorial is on, this team can score: not quite at the rate Louis Gonzalez and last year’s prized group could muster, but well enough. The defense actually gave its offensive pals an easier road, as on the first possession of the second OT the Green made two solid stops. With a third-and-five situation, Enriquez fired to an open Jesse Garcia ahead of the sticks, but the receiver did not receive, leading to the field goal from Martinez.
Faced with the chance to tie with three and win with seven, Memorial carried the day when Mancillas faked the whole stadium out on third and 2. His back leapt into the air on the dive, but Mancillas still had it. Soon, though, Javier Perez had it, for a 16-yard gain to the 1. Like Edinburg’s “Twigs,” Perez is a seldom-used senior who is now a hero after his clutch catch.
Though the ‘Cats stuffed Memorial on first and goal, Mancillas sliced in for the winner on second down. Stunned silence from the Bobcat crowd and kids.
The Wolves outgained EHS 365 to 312, and the 240 from Mancillas through the air made a difference. The junior passer came through, with Borrego (42 yards in six carries in the Wildcat) getting lots of help from lesser-known skill guys on the roster.
Edinburg plunged for 147 yards in 36 tries, not exactly as much as it imagined it might be able to get against a banged-up Memorial crew that Cavazos and his staff have been playing change-it chess with for many weeks now. But with junior D-back D.J. Martinez making 11 stops, aggressive junior Juan Sauceda adding nine from linebacker, and senior lineman Victor Ontiveros and junior DB Danny de la Rosa adding eight each, the Wolves got plenty of step-ups.
Step-ups from a ball club that as its coach will say, was underestimated from the start in 2011. It ain’t how you start it, they will say, it’s how and where you end up. The seniors were 0-10 as freshman. Now, they Dance.
Junior lineman Isaac Escobedo summed it up, after a wild night in Edinburg ended with the home team down and the visitor sky high on a 4-game win streak.
“We want to create a dynasty here, that’s what we’re trying to do,” growled the stocky tackle. “We want to go out and win two playoff games, do better than we did last year. We always want to keep getting better, doing more than the team before. We want people to see us as a dynasty some day.”
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Rio Hondo vs La Grulla Full Game
PSJA Memorial vs Edinburg Live Full Game
PSJA Memorial’s offense kept the Wolverines in the game and was able to come up with big plays in overtime to propel the Wolverines into the playoffs.
Week 9 Match Ups
Edcouch Elsa vs Weslaco East Preview
956sports.com takes a look at Friday’s match-up between Edcouch Elsa and Weslaco East.
Two-A-Days To Become Part Of Good Old Days
Football headlines across the state last week heralded impending change on the horizon for high school clubs in the future. While there are many reasons to read the news about moderated two-a-days from the UIL as positive, some arguments can be made at least slightly to the contrary. Now where shall we look for some brave soul to offer the latter?
First the facts, or the potential ones. There will, as long as the state education commissioner ratifies the UIL’s idea, fewer total two-a-days workouts in the fall from now on. Banned will be back-to-back days with multiple sessions. And instituted will be at least a two-hour break between said workouts.
According to research cited in a recent article in the Express-News, most heat-related injuries happen in the first week of practice during the second workout of the day. The proposed exclusion of two-fers during the first four days of workouts would take care of that, it is imagined.
If these policy changes pass, all to the good, I suppose. In terms of health, but especially in terms of litigation, or lack thereof, and at this stage, let me suggest that though making sure as possible that the football kids are safe is one of the reasons the UIL wants this, the other is money. The schools want nothing to do with the sort of big-money, sob-story lawsuit that can (and has) clean (cleaned) out a district’s cash register, and fast in the past. So, pragmatism is in play, OK, nothing unusual there. Better safe than sorry.
What do we lose in the deal? Having fewer two-a-days does more than just change the historical dynamic, which is partially symbolic but still useful as a motivating tool: “Hey, back in the day we did this, you can do it, too,” type stuff. But that’s not that a big thing, really.
What’s more troubling is that the sheer amount of time a staff would spend engrossed in orchestrated tough times will be reduced. The truth is, two-a-days means more than getting in shape under the hot sun (invaluable, inarguable) and goes beyond repetition of plays (also a vital part of the mix). The most important result from the drill is to see who’s tough, who wants to be part of the team when the going is hard, and who is willing to sacrifice when the road ahead is full of obstacles.
Everyone’s a superstar in shorts, and that’s why I feel that the reduction of actual contact in practice sessions both spring and fall is a detriment too. And why I think that having fewer two-a-days robs coaches of the psychological gut check that the situation was always at least partially intended to be. Who is going to be with us in the fourth quarter when the kids are all tired as hell and want to quit? Who wants to be a captain, a leader, the type who throws ice on a wound and gets back into the fray with murder in their eyes? Who will hit harder and make fewer mistakes down the stretch? Being in tip-top shape helps teams answer these queries.
The less time the staff has to observe who is all talk and who can walk the walk, the more they will be fooled into believing that their kids have what it takes to toe the mark and make it through a successful season.
If the old mantra of “It starts in August, ends in December” is worth anything in future times, it will be a modified version, at best. I suppose the new rules make sense from several standpoints, but I always imagined that the more times BEFORE the season that you can test your kids to their limits, and teach them to transcend these limits, the better.
In sum, who wants to find out in October that your team isn’t as tough as it said it was during the walkthrough?
Been thinking about the nature of the turnover lately. It is the bane of existence for offensive coordinators and the opposite, or boon, for DCs. A fumble or interception can totally change the tenor of a contest, especially early on and late in the affair.
I suppose there is psychology in play here, as with teenagers, every success registers like an earthquake in the backyard while each reverse makes it seem like the world has expanded and finally exploded.
The key is to groom an experienced squad that can take the good with the bad and remain on a reasonably even keel, and this is not an easy to accomplish. Often the kids take their cues from the coaches, the head coach for sure but also their particular position coach. If the leader is high-strung and emotional, chances are that his charges will begin to follow that lead, as modeling is not just a theory, it usually happens.
So when a team makes an early mistake, its reaction to the setback will generally determine the course of its action for the next several series. And if that mistakes leads to points from the opponent, multiply that effect. Best possible outcome, a unit stops the other team from cashing in the gift, like Rio Hondo did against La Feria, overcoming five gaffes to score a 5-point victory last week. It’s like penalty-killing in hockey.
Conversely, when a team fails to turn a turnover into points, it gets into the heads of the kids. With all the media hype and fan madness, we often forget that these are 16- and 17-year-old young people, prone to highs and lows, drama and inconsistency.
The team that can minimize both its turnovers and its psychological variations, this is the team that will probably win, controlling for talent, of course.
You wanted offense, you got offense, as winning teams last week averaged 40.2 points per game. Three units churned for 60-plus, Harlingen, McAllen Memorial, and St. Joe, while four topped 50 and three 40. Heck, one team (Lyford) put 48 on the board and still didn’t win. That is hard to believe.
In fact, the only winner of 23 games scoring less than 20 points was Edinburg, which beat P-SJ-A 17-7.
Another squad that made many but not enough points was La Feria, whose 35 was 16 shy of Port Isabel’s total. The Tarpons zigged and zagged up and down the field, with soph QB Isaiah Martinez running 50 and 54 yards, Kenny Herrera taking a kickoff back 95, and Javi Vela running 76. How’s that for big-play magic? But there’s more, as Jacques Guillot scored on an INT return, capping an amazing night of clutch production from PI.
Martinez totaled 184 yards on the ground for PI, and with Progreso next, who knows that the high-flying Tarpons will come up with Friday.Share this post:
I’m Lovin’ It Plays of Week 8
POW San Benito Jacob Puente
Behind the Scenes with Edcouch Elsa
Missouri Mavericks vs Killer Bees Listen Live at 7:30
The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees once again play host to the Missouri Mavericks at the State Farm Arena in their second game of the 2011-12 season. Tonight is the final match-up between these two teams unless they meet in the President Cup Finals.
Last night the Mavericks earned a 2-1 victory in a tight game between the two teams. The Mavs opened the scoring early the first period but Zac Pearson tied the game at one less than two minutes later. The two teams would remain deadlocked at one until15:54 of the third period when Missouri would score the eventualgame winning goal.
John Murray played well in net for the Bees making 32 saves on 34 shots faced including 17 saves in the first period. Neither power-play got on the board with the Bees going 0-for-1 and the Mavs going 0-for-4.
David Marshall, who was originally voted captain of the Bees, will make his debut in the black and yellow tonight. Marshall was recently called to San Antonio of the AHL
postponing his Valley debut.
Round Up Week 8
PSJA Memorial at Harlingen South
The District 31-5A standings got a bit clearer following PSJA Memorial’s 20-14 overtime victory over Harlingen South Friday at Boggus Stadium. The victory coupled with Edinburg High’s win at PSJA High broke a four-way tie between the teams as it entered Week 8 action.
Memorial improves to 3-2 in district and is tied with the Bobcats for third place. Quarterback Manny Mancillas scored the game-winning touchdown – after the Hawks fumbled the ball on the first drive in overtime – from a yard out.
Edinburg High at PSJA High
Edinburg High is mirroring last year’s run to the postseason after winning its third consecutive game Friday – a 17-7 victory against PSJA High at PSJA Stadium.
Like last year, the Bobcats dropped their first two district contests before winning five straight and advancing three deep in the postseason. So far, the Bobcats are following in exact path.
Edinburg High raced out to a 14-0 halftime lead and held on in the second half after the Bears had sliced the deficit in half. The Bobcats added a Kristov Martinez field goal to seal the win, moving Edinburg High to 3-2 in district.
PSJA North at Edinburg North
PSJA North escaped Cats Stadium with a 31-28 victory over Edinburg North Friday after playing catch up nearly the entire game. The Raiders tied the game four times before marching down the field on the game’s final drive, when Edgar Ruiz booted a 23-yard field goal to send the Raiders to 4-1 in District 31-5A.
The Raiders can clinch a playoff berth with a win next week against Edinburg Economedes.
McAllen Rowe at McAllen Memorial
The first playoff spot in District 30-5A goes to McAllen Memorial thanks to its 63-35 victory over McAllen Rowe Friday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Mustangs remained perfect on the year, improving to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in district, and are seeking their first district title since 2008.
The Warriors fell to 2-3 in district and a tie for fifth place, but still have a good shot at making the playoffs with games against Mission High and La Joya High remaining.
Sharyland at Mission
Sharyland bounced back from its loss to McAllen Memorial last week, trouncing Mission 52-23 Friday at Tom Landry Stadium. The Rattlers shook off an early slow start before rolling to 4-1 in District 30-5A.
Sharyland can wrap up a postseason berth next week at home with a win against La La Joya High. The Eagles, meanwhile, suffered their sixth straight loss after beginning the season 2-0.
Brownsville Lopez at San Benito
San Benito is in good shape to lock up a playoff spot after downing Brownsville Lopez 42-23 Friday at Bobby Morrow Stadium. The Greyhounds scored 35 unanswered points after the Lobos held a 9-7 lead early in the second quarter.
San Benito improved to 4-1 in District 32-5A and a win in any of its final two games will send the Greyhounds back to the postseason. San Benito hosts Brownsville Porter next week followed by a trip to Hanna in its regular-season finale.
Los Fresnos at Brownsville Rivera
Los Fresnos continues to separate itself from the bottom half of District 32-5A, inching closer to the postseason after its 52-28 victory Friday at Sams Stadium against Brownsville Rivera. The Falcons can clinch a playoff spot with a win against Brownsville Pace next week.
Rio Grande City at Edcouch-Elsa
The showdown is set.
Rio Grande City gave Edcouch-Elsa all it could, but the Yellowjackets proved to be too much in the end, defeating the Rattlers 42-21 Friday at Yellowjacket Stadium. The ‘Jackets (8-0) stayed unbeaten as they travel to what will be a raucous Bobby Lackey Stadium next week for a date against Weslaco East. Both teams boast 6-0 district records and the winner will be the frontrunner for the District 32-4A crown.
But on Friday, Edcouch-Elsa had to earn the victory. The Rattlers tied the game at 14 in the second half and got within 28-21 in the third quarter, but two late touchdowns by the ‘Jackets sealed the win.
Roma’s 35-24 victory over Hidalgo Friday at Bill Pate Stadium might go a long way in determining District 32-4A’s final playoff representative. The Gladiators now control their own destiny as they sit in a tie with the Pirates for fourth place with 3-3 league marks.
With a win against La Joya Juarez-Lincoln next week coupled with a Hidalgo loss and Mercedes loss, the Gladiators will clinch their first-ever postseason berth.
Valley View at La Joya Juarez-Lincoln
La Joya Juarez-Lincoln kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 24-0 victory over Valley View Friday at La Joya ISD Stadium.
The Huskies sit at 2-4 in District 32-4A and would have to win out to have any chance of making the postseason for the first time in school history. Juarez-Lincoln travels to Roma and Rio Grande City in the final two weeks.
La Feria at Port Isabel
Port Isabel showed again Friday at Tarpon Stadium why its season continues to be a Jekyll and Hyde one. The Tarpons posted a huge 51-35 victory over La Feria that made the District 32-3A standings an even bigger headache.
Four teams entered Week 8 with identical 1-1 records and after Friday four teams are tied for first place, including the Tarpons. Port Isabel essentially put the game away at halftime, leading 24-7.
The Lions, meanwhile, dropped their second consecutive game after beginning the season 6-0. The losses have come at a bad time for La Feria, which sits in fifth place at 1-2.
Zapata at Rio Hondo
Thanks to Zapata, the race to the postseason in District 32-3A will be one to watch in the final two weeks. The Hawks upset Rio Hondo 21-6 on the road, creating a four-way tie for first place.
Zapata, Rio Hondo, Port Isabel and Grulla share 2-1 district records.
Grulla at Progreso
Grulla disposed of Progreso 35-8 Friday at Red Ant Stadium. The Gators improved to 2-1 in District 32-3A and sit in first place with three other teams.
Grulla, however, might have the most difficult road to the postseason left with a home date against Rio Hondo next week followed by a trip to Zapata in Week 10.
Corpus Christi West Oso at Raymondville
Raymondville rebounded from its tough loss to Lyford last week, defeating Corpus Christi West Oso 26-16 Friday at Burnett Stadium.
The Bearkats improve to 2-1 in district and are tied with Corpus Christi Miller for second place in District 31-3A, though Raymondville holds the tiebreaker based on its head-to-head game. The Bearkats travel to Robstown next week for a matchup against the winless Cottonpickers before a home showdown with district leader Orange Grove (3-0) in Week 10.
Corpus Christi Miller at Lyford
Coming off a big victory over cross-town rival Raymondville in the Cotton Bowl last week, Lyford couldn’t keep its momentum going, falling to Corpus Christi Miller 56-48 Friday at Bulldog Stadium.
The loss drops the Bulldogs to 1-2 and a tie fourth place in District 31-3A, but they are still very much alive in the playoff race. Lyford travels to Corpus Christi West Oso (1-2) next week in a pivotal game, where the loser will likely be eliminated.Share this post:
The Huddle Episode 12
Tony Forina and the crew have Joey Caceres, Gus Cavazos, Rene Medrano in the first hour plus special guest in the second hour.
Edinburg vs PSJA Full Game
Nikki Rowe vs McAllen Memorial Full Game
Rowe was fighting for their playoff lives against Memorial. Both teams battled hard, but Memorial pulled ahead in the second half.
Rio Grande vs Edcouch Elsa Full Game
Killer Bees vs. Missouri
Harlingen vs Economedes Highlights
Steele Downs Judson
Thinking how I could I have be so wrong about Judson, while wondering what ever happened to Cleveland Browns split end Fair Hooker?
It must have been Vince Lombardistone who made me write that Judson would beat Wagner in this space a little while ago. Although, I haven’t seen the Bedrock High legend in some time, it’s easy to blame him. It must have been Lombardistone, who made me think Judson was the best team in San Antonio. But like Plato, the flickering lights on the wall of the Bedrock High locker cave fooled Lombardistone and me, too.
After watching the Rockets lose to Steele, 34-20 on Thursday night at Rutledge Stadium, where the press box looks like a block of office buildings. There’s no need to channel Lombardistone to see that Steele may well defend the Class 5A Division II championship it won last year on the legs of RB Malcom Brown.
This season, it’s the arms and legs of QB Tommy Armstrong, who had a long scoring run when he reversed his field and Judson lost contain allowing him to scamper down the sideline for six. He also had a long touchdown pass in the third quarter when two Judson defenders collided in front of his receiver, allowing him to score.
There was an earthquake on Thursday morning in the San Antonio-area. I won’t lie, like most in the area, I slept through it. (Yeah, I hear you, I can sleep through everything but the call for a meal.) However, I can’t help but feel it was an omen, an omen of a seismic shift in San Antonio-area high school football.
For around three-and-half decades, Judson has been the king of football in SA. Now it seems like Steele is going to take the crown by force.
Judson is still a good team and will still likely be the third-round opponent for the Division I school from the Valley (read Harlingen), but I think Lombardistone will agree in saying the Rockets have lost a little bit of their swagger.
Steele, riding a 20-game winning streak, has all of its swagger and some of Judson’s as well. The Knights are not a team anybody wants to see in the playoffs.
(Paul Conatzer is a long-time sportswriter, sometimes blogger and an all-around good guy. You can find him at email@example.com, on Facebook and on Twitter: @toffee Paul)SShare this post:
La Joya vs McHi Highlights
Donna vs Palmview Live 7pm!
Why is Harlingen So Good?
2007 Archive Videos
Football Highlights from 2007
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POW Juan Puga
2008 Video Archives
Videos and highlights from the 2008 football season.
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