They figured they might have to put some points on the board in the season opener, against a Rio Grande City unit that came in with one of the most highly touted offensive machines in the Valley. Done, to the tune of 498 yards and 50 points.
But the bonus for Edinburg North here Friday night was the outstanding play of the defense, which limited the Rattlers to 218 total yards in a smashing 50-14 win in the 2009 season opener for both squads.
North struck like a flash for three touchdowns in the first 13 minutes, all passes to senior Andrew Partida, and the defense did not allow a Rattler first down until early in the second period. The Cougars, 7-4 a year ago, thus started their march to a possible third straight playoff trip in style, dominating the Starr County club in every phase of the game.
The Coogs knew that two-headed quarterback Matt Munoz and Raul Monsevais were going to pick up where they left off in 2008, and Friday the duo combined to complete 14 of 21 balls in the high-precision air attack. But they had to be pleased with the effort of the D, led by linebackers Robert Rodriguez (eight tackles) and Blaze Walker (10 to lead the team). They were.
“We’re happy,” said North Coach Roy Garza. “That was really pretty impressive. We got a lot of hats on the ball and even when their good runner broke, we were able to cover, and we stopped him from going all the way.”
The good runner is Justin Ortega, and though he gained 103 yards on the night, he was held in check nicely in the first half, as North took control. Along with the fine LB play, tackle Heltrin Reyes was dynamite as usual while the secondary performed admirably, despite having lost two of its members recently.
Without former starter Alex Chavez, who is no longer with the team, and Victor Garza (injured knee), the slack was picked up by veteran strong safety Manny Garcia and the corner duo of Bryan Trevino and Justin Escobedo. Safety Ramiro Borrego was active as well, with five stops, while Alan Garza made six.
Sniffing out the traps and screens the Rattlers like to run with their awesome team speed, the North stop crew forced punts on three of the first four Rio possessions. Meanwhile, Partida, who snared six catches for 105 yards, absolutely destroyed his man on the right corner.
Taking the opening chance at their 42 after a strong kick return from Roosevelt Munoz (he also made the booming hit of the night on a kick-cover play), North moved smartly downfield with new feature back Simon Edwards (139 yards in a solid performance, including a 44-yard breakout) smashing into the line and Munoz making all the right decisions behind center.
Edwards took a dump screen to the 6 to convert a third-and-short, and shortly thereafter Munoz fired a pea to Partida slanting from the right for a 3-yard score, the first of the year, at 6:59.
On the initial Rio try, Walker, end Hector Trejo and burly linebacker Josh DeLuna (7 stops) made plays and forced a punt. Three plays later it was Partida again, this time from 49 yards out, as he made a sweet leaping grab over the cornerback 20 yards downfield on a ball from Monsevais, alternating by the series with Munoz. At 3:15, it was Coogs on top, 14-0.
The Rattlers were reeling from the barrage, having committed three motion penalties on its second possession. Ortega was finding no running room and even when promising junior quarterback Angel Alaffa replaced starter Joe Gil, it was nothing doing in the early going.
Rio regained its composure to drive 90 yards in nine plays for a touchdown in the second, but not before Partida had stormed 21 yards for a third TD on the first play of the second period.
“You just try and not let the defensive man touch you off the line,” said Partida, who looks like a perfect complement outside to “Sneaky Snake” Juan Ramirez (four catches, 60 yards) in the slot. “I have to thank the line, because they gave us time to do what we did. And the guy who was covering me, well I know he’s a good player, I was just able to get past him all night.”
With a 20-7 lead at the break, North got some defensive magic to begin the second half, as DeLuna stepped in front for an interception at the Rio 30 two plays in. From there, Michael Pacheco (46 yards on 10 carries) produced a first down with a pair of brawling runs and then Partida hauled in his fourth six-pointer, a 16-yard fade from Monsevais (6 of 8, 117 yards, with Munoz going 8 of 13 for 121 yards) for a 27-7 lead.
The Rattlers’ last shot to stave off disaster saw them march to the Coog 19 after a long kickoff return, only to have DeLuna and junior Jacob Garza throw Arnold Chapa for a 2-yard loss on a key third-down screen pass. Rio turned it over on downs after that, and Monsevais would toss another pair of scores, one to Ramirez and the other to Jordan Quiroz. Munoz added a late 31-yard scamper on which he broke three tackles en route to the end zone.
To sum, a pretty salty debut for a North squad that has been picked by some local experts as a favorite for the District 31-5A title. With a young offensive line helping the backs bruise for 248 rushing yards, and the passers on target from the outset, all it took was a great game from the defense, and it was Blowout City.
“These kids have learned the system now, they’ve been doing it for awhile,” said Garza, whose team now prepares for a tough road test against Sharyland, a 10-game winner a year ago, Friday. “And the coaches have learned their roles as well, we take what people give us on offense. We got the fade working when they gave us man, and we found the middle when it was zone.”
Garza said that Partida, the program’s first receiver to catch four TD passes in recent memory, does well at making the catch up in the air.
“He goes up and gets it up high, he’s pretty lethal when he does that,” said the coach. “All our kids caught the ball well tonight, and the throws were right there, consistently. The defense came through well for us, and I have to say, this is definitely one win to build on.”
RGC AT EDINBURG NORTH
RGC 0 7 0 7 - 14
NORTH 14 6 16 14 - 50
N: Andrew Partida 3 pass from Matt Munoz (Allen Guajardo kick) 6:59
N: Partida 49 pass from Raul Monsevais (Guajardo kick) 3:15
N: Partida 21 pass from Munoz (kick failed) 11:53
R: Freddy Lopez 21 run (Jarred Lopez kick) 3:20
N: Partida 16 pass from Monsevais (Guajardo kick) 9:07
N: Guajardo 26 FG 1:50
N: Juan Ramirez 23 pass from Monsevais (run failed) 0:21
R: Justin Ortega 2 run (Lopez kick) 8:02
N: Munoz 31 run (Guajardo kick) 5:22
N: Jordan Quiroz 6 pass from Monsevais (Guajardo kick) 1:37
FD 11; RUSH 134; PASS 84; TOTAL 218; TO 3
FD 22; RUSH 248; PASS 238; TOTAL 486
RUSHING: Simon Edwards 12-139; Munoz 9-63; Michael Pacheco 10-46
PASSING: Munoz 8-13-0 121; Monsevais 6-8-0 117
RECEIVING: Partida 6-105; Ramirez 4-60; Edwards 2-18; JoeMar Vazquez 1-49; Quiroz 1-6
TACKLES: Blaze Walker 10; Robert Rodriguez 8; Josh DeLuna 7; Manny Garcia 7; Alan Garza 6; Jacob Garza 6; Justin Escobedo 6; Heltrin Reyes 5; Ramiro Borrego 5
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Garcia
INTERCEPTIONS: DeLuna, Andrew Lozano