On a sweltering afternoon in town, the Jags got started for 2009, scrimmaging against Brownsville Hanna at Cats Stadium and more than holding their own.
Despite giving up a pair of touchdown passes to Hanna’s excellent receivers, Econ outgained the Eagles 221 to 152, scoring four times while surrendering five touchdowns. The main thing Coach Oscar Salinas wanted to see coming in, he saw, as the Jags rushed for 207 yards on 24 carries. Senior Gary Rodriguez scooted 49 yards for a touchdown and ended up with 69 yards, while Isaac Washington Vazquez picked up 57 on seven carries.
“I know our defense is going to be there eventually,” Salinas noted. “But what we were worried about was whether we could move the ball on the ground, and we did pretty well on that.”
Coming off a disheartening 2-8 campaign, Econ took on a Hanna club that posted the same overall mark in 32-5A. The Eagles of Coach Tom Chavez are light in numbers but in Mike Garza and Anthony Garza have two of the best catchers in the Valley. Garza had touchdown catches as senior Tito Perez threw for 100 yards. But the Jag defense, led by linebacker Victor Salinas (six tackles) and safety Andrew Fox (also six) dug in as the day progressed, stopping the Eagles cold in the second half of the scrimmage.
Meanwhile, quarterbacks Edgar Cuevas and Rudy Villarreal ran the ball-control offense effectively, though they combined for just 14 yards with an interception in the air.
Hanna scratched first with a 35-yard post pattern six to Garza, and Econ’s first try ended when Villarreal fumbled a snap. Jag LB Sonny Bernal made the first of his two sacks to thwart the next Hanna drive, and on the third play of the next drive, Rodriguez took off around right end and 49 yards later, was in the end zone.
Hanna came back to score again, with a third-down conversion despite an earlier Bernal trap of Perez, for a 2 to 1 lead. The Jags had trouble with the snap count, jumping offside four times in the early going.
When Garza snared a tipped pass in the right corner of the end zone over Nelson Hampton, the Eagles went up 3 to 1, but Vazquez ripped off some nice gains and culminated a drive with a 3-yard TD. He’s not very big, but has quick feet and attacks the hole well.
After the Eagles tallied, Econ was stopped, and in a short-yardage segment of the scrimmage, Perez found his tight end over the middle for a TD. Rodriguez came back with a short TD run and the first part ended, Hanna up 5 to 3, but with the Jags coming.
Then came the live action quarter, and Econ dominated, forcing the foe into a pair of punts and ending the visitor’s other chance with a vicious hit from DB Ulises Umanzor.
On offense for the quarter, the Jags rushed well, and the highlight was a 47-yard run for paydirt from Danny Garcia, like Rodriguez a member of the track team’s regional sprint relay team.
Other standouts for the Jags included linebackers Carlos Carlos (seven stops), switched from the defensive line this season, and Arnulfo Rodriguez, who also had seven hits.
The Jags travel to Brownsville Saturday to take on Pace, after a solid effort against a much-improved Hanna team that will probably make some noise in its league in 2009. They begin the season Aug. 28 with a match against Brownsville Porter.