As they started the newest season, the Jags had a new look, but the same pleasing result fans have become accustomed to. Econ, winner of 26 of 30 games in 2008, advanced to the finals of the ECISD Tourney before losing on penalty kicks to Laredo United Saturday.
Starting over with a number of key graduation losses, the Jags nonetheless blew through three games to reach the championship. After knocking off La Joya Palmview in the semifinal, they rallied to tie the United game at 1-1 with 10 minutes left when Juan Pantoja punched in a rebound off a free kick by teammate Vivian Garza.
Minus injured starters Juan Cavazos and Abel Farias Saturday, the Jags competed well against a physically strong United team which passed expertly and controlled the action for most of the day at Cats Stadium. Longhorn star Jovany Macias was a standout and tourney MVP, scoring the visitors’ goal in the first half; he is a spitting image of graduated Jag star Julio Perez, a strapping 6-foot-2 monster with incredible moves and ball control.
Econ rebounded from the early deficit, and forced the title tilt to kicks. But the Jags missed three times out of five, and even a penalty kick score from keeper Robert Navarro couldn’t stem the tide.
On United’s first shot, Navarro appeared to turn the ‘Horns back with a stop, but the referee ruled that the senior minder had crossed the line in front. The second try at the first shot made it past Navarro.
Econ took on Laredo Alexander Friday in the opening match of the tournament, and gained a measure of revenge for last year’s semi-final loss to the Bulldogs.
Farias started the scoring in a 3-1 win, and the Jags got solid defense and goal play from veteran keeper Navarro in outclassing Alexander.
Econ led 1-0 at the half, surrendered a penalty kick equalizer, but then found the net twice down the stretch to start its campaign off on the right foot.
Certainly the addition of the active Farias will help Econ this season. He is a 110-percenter who attacks at all times, often climbing up bigger players to try and gain possession, often succeeding. With Farias and the great Pantoja up front, the Jags should have little problem getting some goals this season; those two worked well together against Alexander.
As Econ took the lead in the second half, it was a sweet pop-up pass from Pantoja to Farias that did the trick, as the little forward controlled against two defenders, steadied on the run, and fired one to the left corner for the 2-1 advantage.
Good-size midfielder Carlos Cabrera, seeking to fill the midfield slot manned so ably by Luis Alejo in the past, capped the offense with a booming midfield boot with a strong wind that roared past the Bulldog keeper inside the final minute.
Defensively, the Jags will be smaller than they were last season, but there are some promising kids working their way into prime time. Jesse Cadena came up to make a pair of skillful header clears on the left side, while rangy Carlos Vazquez had a strong game in back as well. Navarro, who leveled an approaching Alexander forward with a hard shiver, is up to his old tricks, and he is a definite team leader for Coach Sam Gonzalez.
In other ECISD action Saturday, North came from behind to defeat EHS, thanks to two long free-kick winners from Wally De la Paz. The Bobcats led 2-0 in the first half before allowing a pair down the stretch.
The North girls stormed to the title at the Border Olympics Tournament in Laredo, defeating Sharyland, 3-2, in the final after having beaten Laredo Alexander, 5-1, in the semis.
The Jady Jags of Econ advanced to the finals at the Valley View Tourney before drooping a 2-1 decision to La Joya Palmview. They scored a shootout victory against Roma in the semis.
The Edinburg girls competed at the McAllen Tournament over the weekend and ended up in fourth place in the open division. Saturday, they lost to Los Fresnos, 2-0, and then took the P-SJ-A Lady Bears to shootout before expiring in that bracket’s third-place match.
Friday was a great day for the team, as it scored a pair of wins, totaling five goals and allowing none in victories over Brownsville Porter and District 31-5A foe Pharr North. Senior Elizabeth Mena tallied twice in a 3-0 win against Porter, with sophomore Becky Rodriguez getting the other.
In Game Two, EHS blanked the Lady Raiders on scores from junior Alyssa Perez and speedy newcomer Michal Ann Rodriguez. The Lady ‘Cats controlled the ball through much of the match, getting tight defensive play and spending two-thirds of the time in the North zone.
NOTES: EHS remained unbeaten in district with a 12-point hoops win against Pharr North Saturday night, thanks to 22 points from Chris Flores. The Bobcats got hot from the outside when it counted to take down the rival Raiders, with Flores knocking down four of the team’s eight three-pointers.