A classic juxtaposition presented itself outside the Jags locker room on a rainy Friday night.
At the end of the first half, the Econ bunch trotted off the Cats Stadium turf up 13-0, a major surprise to everyone except the Orange. Linebacker Arnulfo Rodriguez hollered to his teammates as they reached the chain-link fence leading to the respite area.
“Don’t back down! Keep it up!”
An unknown Jag from out of the jogging pack added, “This game ain’t over yet! Let’s go!”
Now turn to the end of the script, with the weary Jags on the wrong end of a 14-13 score against city rival North. The Cougar post-game huddle serenaded Econ with its own version of the Jag chant, “Whose House!?” Five times in succession the cheer rang out in the soggy night, and there had been some near fistfights after the postgame handshakes.
Some leftover Jag fans, denied their major upset in deflating fashion on Matt Munoz’ 22-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Quiroz inside the final minute, offered up some choice obscenities to the Cougars. And one yelled, “Bobcats, Bobcats!” referring to the town hill left to climb for North as it seeks to secure the City Championship for 2009.
They staggered off the field, did the Jags, having done their dead-level best to take down the favored rival. There were words exchanged again near the house, this time between some players and a gaggle of rowdy, obnoxious North rooters trying to rub it in.
Coach Oscar Salinas sternly led his band to the buses beyond the lockers to the east, and an assistant coach maneuvered defensive back Aaron Garcia away from the media and back to his beleaguered bunch.
It was that keen a case of frustration for the Jags (1-2, 3-3), who came whisker-close to the win which would have put them squarely in the middle of the District 31-5A race. Instead, North (2-1, 4-2) produced a second come-from-behind victory, following the 31-28 shocker it had pulled off on the road Oct. 1 at P-SJ-A.
Halted time and again by the resurgent Wrecking Crew Defense, the Coogs nonetheless never gave up, driving for the go-ahead score with 52 seconds remaining and converting the all-important extra point thanks to Alan Guajardo.
Econ’s miss on its second PAT had seemed a trifle at the time, as it still left the team in a 13-0 advantage with 12 ticks left in the first half. But it came back to haunt the Orange, hard.
“We just couldn’t do anything right on that last drive,” said Garcia, before he was interrupted abruptly. “They [North] made some great plays at the end…all I know is, we have to find a way to bounce back next week.”
HEY … WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
This was one was interesting from the get-go, with rain threatening and perhaps making the crowd a slow-arriving one for the shootout to come. North had escaped with its life intact after Munoz’ heroics against the Bears, including a touchdown toss to Quiroz with 15 seconds left. Econ, meanwhile, was feeling like a spoiler after having blanked Harlingen South 20-0, allowing the Hawks just 83 total yards. If this was truly going to be the breakout season for the Jags, just 2-8 in 2008, they had to take it to the Cougars. This was it.
And Salinas’ group did Bring the Wood in the first 24 minutes, stopping a deep penetration into their territory early on and then responding with an 80-yard drive punctuated by three terrific runs from junior Nelson “Little Cat” Hampton.
First, Munoz had completed 5 of 6 balls on the team’s second possession, to confront a 3rd-and-4 at the Jag 9. But Garcia, who would account for eight tackles, stepped in front for an interception in the end zone at 4:15.
Then Econ set sail behind its large offensive line, with Hampton breaking off jets of 19, 12, and 13 off the end-around from the slot. The first converted a 3rd-and-7 chance, and the third gave his team a first-and-goal at the 2.
Rugged Rey Trevino powered into the end zone from there, and it was 7-0, Jags, with 11:37 left in the second.
Defensive coordinator Freddy Hernandez and The Crew decided to give Munoz the short game and hinder the longer routes, and when Munoz came up lame after a first-half shot to the thigh, North faltered a bit. The Coogs still got to the Econ 35 before a personal-foul call forced a punt. North came into the game bent on intimidating the Jags, and there were a number of licks after the whistle from both sides, as expected given the long history of enmity between the two schools.
Later in the period, North again reached the enemy 35 but Munoz’ bomb for JoeMar Vazquez went off his hands at the 5 with Luis Huerta a step behind in pursuit from his linebacker post.
Econ took over and marched to a 13-0 lead, with Juan Luevano hauling in a key 12-yard pass from Rudy Villarreal on 3rd and 4. Andrew Fox, who made an amazing 20 tackles from his safety spot Friday, ran under a 20-yard toss from Villarreal at the 6, and with time running out, Villarreal flipped one through a crowd to senior tight end Mario Lamas, who came back for the ball smartly and dived to make the grab.
For the second night in a row, a placement kick would eventually have a hand in deciding the outcome. Thursday night, it was Edinburg’s David Guevara blocking an overtime PAT try from P-SJ-A in the Bobcats’ thrilling 33-32 victory over the Bears.
Friday, it was Econ flubbing the second try for point, leaving the squad with a 13-0 lead at the break that would not stand up in the end.
NORTH’S SLOW TRAIN COMIN’
Seeking to complete the task, Econ committed a pair of penalties at the onset of the third period that stunted the mojo. The first came on the opening kickoff when an illegal-block flag pushed them back to the 16. Victor Salinas punted away after Heltrin Reyes (11 tackles in a super effort) and Robert Rodriguez (10 tackles) made the reads to stop Villarreal, who was 4 of 5 in the first half but just 1 of 9 afterward.
North took over at its 49 and advanced to the Econ 28 before Munoz was picked again, this time by Huerta. But an illegal block on the return hampered the Jags, as they started at their own 31 instead of well into Northland.
Reyes made a tackle for minus-1 against Trevino with help from Oscar De la Cruz, and then rushed Villarreal into an errant pass on third down. Playing with a two-score lead, the Jags seemed to draw in their wings a bit, and this turn toward the conservative produced just 76 total yards; they’d put 142 up there through two periods.
The Coogs seemed set to turn the tide, now moving from their own 47 to the Jag 28, with Munoz (19 of 29 for 181 yards, his first two picks of the season) finding Quiroz (seven catches for 83, 22 grabs in his last three outings) for 20 yards. But the charge was stopped thanks to senior Sammy Brewster’s two hits and Carlos Carlos’ pressure which forced an incomplete from Munoz on fourth down.
North Coach Roy Garza noted after the game that to win, you have to attack, and sometimes this means gambling on fourth down. The Coogs did so twice in the half, failed both times, but overcame it to win.
“You have to roll the dice, and if you lose, you lose,” said Garza, who admitted that after two cardiac finishes, he’s had enough excitement for one season.
After having blunted the North try, Econ took over at its 25 still up 13-0, but the North defense was up to the challenge. Linebacker Rodriguez said after the game that his defensive mates were determined to keep popping the Jags until the offense could get going and make the comeback. He had plenty of help from defensive back Moises Beltran, who had eight tackles as did secondary mate Manny Garcia.
Yet another DB, Ramiro Borrego, hammered his way to three cracking hits to force an Econ punt, and North finally got the wheels rolling.
Utilizing tough back Simon Edwards (10 carries, 78 yards) the Coogs drove, and soon were at the 27 thanks to a 34-yard explosion down the left sideline from Edwards. Munoz found hurdler Danny Cardenas for a 27-yard hook-and-go TD against double coverage at 9:00, and North was back in the mix.
On the ensuing Jag try, Bryan Trevino chased Villarreal down to hold him short of a first down, and Salinas kicked to the North 32 with 7:58 to go in the game. Fox made two tackles while Mariano Garza (two batted passes at the line) and Pedro Alvarado pounded Edwards for no gain. Munoz’s fourth-down pass was slapped away by the onrushing Garza and with 5:46 to go, the Orange was at the Coog 39, ready to tuck it away.
Two runs netted minus-5 against the inspired North defense, and a third-down pass to Hampton (quiet in the second half with just six touches) went for 9. Fox’s diving attempt at a pass came up empty on fourth, and this was really now it.
North at its own 35, with 3:28 left.
Two quick ones to Andrew Partida in the patented Two-Minute Offense got a first down, and Edwards (9) and Munoz (8) ran for the next chain-mover. From the Econ 39, Juan Ramirez got nine on a reception and after a holding penalty, Edwards barged for a first down at the 22.
Over the middle streaked the long-legged Quiroz, and Munoz saw him and fired, catching the soccer star in stride. The receiver broke a tackle try from Garcia and pushed into the end zone. Guajardo calmly chipped the PAT through, and after strong pass-rush efforts from Borrego and Alan Garza, the game was soon history, with Reyes making the first hit and De la Cruz cleaning up on a futile fourth-down run from Villarreal on the Jag sideline.
Garza said that the Jags came out ready to play and that his Coogs will have to get a better start in their next contest, a mammoth challenge Thursday night in the Tri-Cities against unbeaten Pharr North.
“This is getting pretty close, too close,” he said after successive fourth-quarter comebacks. “The Jags were pretty quick coming off the corners tonight, and they didn’t give us much time to throw deep. But we found a way to make the plays when we had to, we started running the ball in the second half, and it helped.”
Munoz admitted that the Econ ploy to give up the short stuff worked against his ability to stretch the field. He concluded that when the chips were down, his defense gave the ball back to the offense.
“And I think we were mentally tougher at the end,” he added.
P-SJ-A AT EDINBURG
PSJA 6 6 7 7 6 - 32
EHS 0 7 8 11 7 - 33
P: Gilbert Espino 1 run (kick failed) 8:11
P: Ruben Garcia 5 run (run failed) 9:06
E: Freddy Guajardo 1 run (Jaime Juarez kick) 1:34
E: Jaime Sauceda 7 run (Steve Guerrero run) 6:51
P: Ossie Cantu 2 run (Pablo Molina kick) 3:38
P: Espino 4 run (Molina kick) 9:18
E: Steve Trevino 7 pass from Guerrero (Aaron Gonzalez run) 5:05
E: Juarez 19 FG 0:14
P: Cantu 9 run (kick blocked) OT
E: Kenneth Henriksen fum rec in end zone (Juarez kick) OT
P-SJ-A: FD 19: RUSH 269; PASS 54; TOTAL 323; TO 0
EHS: FD 21; RUSH 194; PASS 110; TOTAL 304; TO 0
RUSH: Gonzalez 13-79; Sauceda 14-74; Deandric Maxwell 6-17; Manny Menchaca 2-10; Guajardo 3-7; Guerrero 5-4: Aaron Garza 1-3
PASS: Guerrero 12-20-0 110
RECEIVING: Trevino 5-59; Menchaca 4-31; Sauceda 1-9; Josh Mariscal 1-8; Noe Gonzalez 1-3
CITY FOOTBALL STATS
OFFENSE RUSH PASS TOT AVG PTS
NORTH 936 1166 2102 350.3 172
ECON 1036 621 1657 276.1 139
EHS 1004 616 1620 270.0 104
EHS 1128 666 1794 299.0 127
ECON 972 883 1855 309.1 130
NORTH 1063 844 1907 317.8 160
RUSHING ATT YDS AVG TD
Hampton, Econ 58 440 7.6 6
Munoz, North 67 400 6.0 2
Edwards, North 50 369 7.4 2
Sauceda, EHS 59 320 5.4 3
Maxwell, EHS 58 299 5.2 0
Vazquez, Econ 49 264 5.4 0
Pacheco, North 40 152 3.8 2
PASSING ATT COMP YDS PCT TD INT
Munoz, North 132 82 883 62.1 9 2
Villarreal, Econ 68 33 621 48.5 7 1
Escobar, EHS 50 25 352 50.0 1 2
Guerrero, EHS 57 24 262 42.1 2 3
Monsevais, North 21 13 189 61.9 4 0
RECEIVING REC YDS AVG TD
Trevino, EHS 27 394 15.0 3
Ramirez, North 22 265 11.0 4
Quiroz, North 24 255 10.5 4
Cardenas, North 15 224 14.9 1
Partida, North 17 210 12.4 4
Lamas, Econ 9 190 21.1 2
Menchaca, EHS 14 157 11.2 0
SCORING TD PAT FG PTS
Hampton, Econ 9 0 0 56
Ramirez, North 5 0 0 30
Guajardo, North 0 19 4 31
Guajardo, EHS 5 0 0 30
Partida, North 4 0 0 24
Guajardo, EHS 4 0 0 24
Quiroz, North 4 0 0 24
Fox, Econ 3 0 0 18
Sauceda, EHS 3 0 0 18
Trevino, EHS 3 0 0 18