To a man, the Bobcats knew that despite 137 yards in penalties and stiff resistance from the Cougars, they are now set up for a replay of last year's second-half rush to the playoffs.
A bloody and unvarnished 16-6 victory at Cats Stadium Friday night stemmed the tide of a 3-game losing streak and marked EHS' first District 31-5A win of the season. At 1-2 now after losses to Harlingen and Pharr North, the ‘Cats (3-3 overall) are in familiar territory.
"I can't believe it, but it's playing out the same," said EHS Coach Joey Caceres, whose club started 0-2 in 2010 before running the table from there to set the stage for a three-deep playoff adventure. "Once we get to the postseason, the Bobcats are pretty good, but we have to get there first. Though we made a bunch of mistakes tonight, we made a few big plays and we got the win, that's what matters. This is the first step of a new journey."
With this city rivalry game always bringing out the most of each team, emotion-wise, it was no surprise that there were flaring tempers and loads of flags throughout.
"We all came out a little wild-eyed at the beginning, it seemed like both teams were a little jittery," said senior tight end Zach Faires of EHS. "But after awhile we just had to remind ourselves that the hype was in the stands, and we were the ones on the field."
Edinburg scratched first in a fiercely contested first half and led 10-0 at the half. On the night the ‘Cats gained 145 yards on the ground and 83 passing, as Ramon Enriquez took over for injured starter Alex Cantu (season-ending knee injury) and did a credible job, completing 6 for 12. In the second half he would nail Anthony Acosta on a 44-yard bomb that led to another score, making it 16-0.
North (1-2, 1-5) rallied for a 91-yard scoring drive, aided by 52 yards in Edinburg penalties. to make it 16-6 with 6:02 to go in an interminable fourth period.
But the Coog offense, averaging 310 yards coming in, found the going tough against a re-energized EHS D, getting just 181 Friday. After having rambled for 220 yards against P-SJ-A Memorial, senior Rollie Borrego carried for 61 on 13 trips against EHS, as the Bobcats kept the ball away with a conservative approach, trying to shorten the game.
After being pounded on for 298 yards or more in four straight weeks, the EHS D enjoyed its best night since opening week against La Joya, led by tackle Johnny Espinosa and gutty linebacker Matthew Guerrero, who made seven stops apiece.
With Harlingen as its next opponent, North advances from the rivalry game in a bit of confusion, as its offense petered out Friday but the much-maligned defense did a solid job. Once again amazing junior safety Vince Ortiz led the way, with 20 tackles, while the front in the 3-4 look contributed some key stops. Tackle Jacob Salinas had a sack while end Josh Dennett made nine hits as the Coogs looked to stop the powerful EHS ground game.
Corner Christian Marin had an excellent night with 15 tackles and the Coogs played turnover-free football. If they had moved the ball better, they could have taken this one. Senior Joel Cuellar completed 11 of 18 balls but for just 78 yards.
Edinburg gets a shot at the city championship Friday against 0-6 Economedes, with another practice week to use in working the burly, strong-armed Enriquez into the mix. "Super Sal" Martinez scored a touchdown from the Wildcat formation in the second half and made seven tackles. But the Coogs kicked away from him all night, preferring to give field position away and avoid the game-breaking potential the senior star brings to every snap.
"We just needed to show we can bounce back once again," said Martinez, whose 1-yard score with 1:30 to go in the third came after the bomb from Enriquez to Acosta, and at first glance appeared to be either a fumble or a no gain at the 1. The ‘Cats got the call.
"North was pretty good tonight, they played well, so we needed a few big plays," he added. "Ramon was our 7 on 7 quarterback so it wasn't like we were too unsure of him. He did good for us tonight, now we just have to go out the next few weeks and finish, just like last year."
NOTES: With the win, EHS improves to 6-11-1 lifetime against its rival, on a night when members of the split Class of 1992 celebrated in front of a packed house. That year many seniors who had started at EHS as underclassmen finished at North, which had been inaugurated in 1991.
Former EHS star QB Stevie "Blue Eyes" Guerrero, one of the heroes of last year's 10-win campaign, attended the game on a break from Schreiner College in Kerrville, where he is playing basketball.
EHS VS NORTH
EHS (1-2, 3-3) 0 10 6 0 - 16
NORTH (1-2, 1-5) 0 0 0 6 - 6
E: Victor Montemayor 1 run (Kristov Martinez kick) 6:58
E: K. Martinez 27 FG 0:03
E: Sal Martinez 1 run (kick blocked) 1:30
N: Joel Cuellar 2 run (run failed) 6:02
EHS: FD 17; RUSH 145; PASS 83; TOTAL 228; TO 0
RUSH: Arnie Alvarado 15-49; Montemayor 12-48; Favian Quintanilla 6-36; S. Martinez 5-17; Ramon Enriquez 3-(-3)
PASS: Enriquez 6-12-0 93
RECEIVING: Anthony Acosta 1-44; Quintanilla 3-21; Alvarado 1-12; Jesus Garcia 1-6
TACKLES: S. Martinez 7; Johnny Espinosa 7; Matthew Guerrero 7; Armando Celedon 6; Jacob Benavidez 5/SACK: Guerrero
NORTH: FD 9; RUSH 103; PASS 78; TOTAL 181; TO 0
RUSH: Rollie Borrego 13-61; Cuellar 15-42
PASS: Cuellar 11-18-0 78
RECEIVING: Tevin Brown 5-36; Mike Hinojosa 3-22; Reyes Espino 2-18; Borrego 1-2
TACKLES: Vince Ortiz 20; Christian Marin 15; Josh Dennett 9; Rey Rico 6; Thomas Leyva 6; Eddie Olivarez 5; Diego Sandoval 5; Gino Cruz 5/SACK: Jacob Salinas