Though it had been gutted badly on a long drive, and though it stood in the shadow of its own goal with momentum about to flip from one sideline to the other, the Edinburg defense wasn’t worried.
The suddenly super Bobcat stoppers came up with the play of the night Friday, hammering star runner Jonathan Gonzalez of P-SJ-A Memorial dead in his tracks on a 4th-and-1 dive from the 1-yard line. David Guevara came flying from the outside to clip Gonzalez down low, fellow linebacker Ciro Reyna made the stick up high, and mammoth tackle Bryan Garza bear-hugged the whole bunch to the turf. The monumental goal-line stand ended the Wolverines’ 95-yard drive to start the third quarter, and proved to be the singular moment in a 24-14 Edinburg win.
Gonzalez, who would later break a 63-yard TD to keep his team in it, rushed for 159 yards on the night, and gouged the EHS D for 49 total yards on the march that started at the Memorial 4. But the ‘Cats, up 14-7 at the time, rose up for the huge play and Guevara, for one, wasn’t surprised in the least.
“We showed why we have the second-ranked defense in the district,” said the stocky senior, who made eight tackles and a sack, while Reyna led all hitters with 15 stops. “They drove on us but at the last minute we just said to ourselves that we had to stop them. We have an intimidating defense, and we were able to make the play when we needed it most.”
And outside of the nice game from the speedy Gonzalez, the Wolverines (0-1 in district, 2-2 overall) found the going tough against Edinburg’s fine ‘backers and its injury-touched secondary. They picked up just 274 total yards, marking the third game in a row that the Bobcats (1-0, 2-2) have held the opponent to less than 300.
This year’s EHS contingent is indeed stingy on defense and at times explosive on offense, though Friday was the first time Coach Joey Caceres’ group passed the 20-point plateau in 2009. The ‘Cats have relied on a punishing ground game and the occasional big ball in the air to “The Magician,” Steve Trevino. They’ve allowed just 56 points in four games, all close contests, with the ‘backers as the backbone.
“Those guys are just damn fine football players,” said Caceres of his All-Stars Reyna and Guevara, who have combined for an even 100 tackles in four games. “They just go in there and take care of business all night. That stand in the third was huge for us.”
Also coming up big for the ‘Cats was sophomore defensive back Sal Martinez, who made his third interception of the year, forced and recovered a fumble on punt-cover that led to a field goal, and ran a second pick back 89 yards for six, only to have the scintillating length-of-the-field effort late in the second half nullified by penalty. With Aaron Sifuentes out for at least two more weeks with a knee sprain, the ‘Cats have needed some contributions from the bench.
“They’re already calling him a sophomore sensation, and you can see why,” said Caceres, who smiled broadly as the veterans rewarded Martinez after the game by calling him up to deliver the traditional team breakdown chant in the postgame huddle. “He’s something else … Sal really has a nose for the football.”
WAY TO WORK EARLY
Edinburg started with a bang Friday as on the first play Isaac Escobar rolled out on the bootleg play that has become a prominent part of the attack, throwing across his body deep downfield for Trevino (5 catches, 103 yards). The 42-yard gainer set up a 3-yard TD run from power runner Freddy Guajardo at 10:31.
Memorial, plagued this season by penalties and mistakes that have short-circuited its high-powered offense, committed three on its first series and punted. A long TD run from Gonzalez was called back on that initial series, and that failure would come back to haunt the visitor in green and black. But Escobar fumbled away the first snap of the next possession at his own 28 and was replaced thereafter by junior Stevie Guerrero.
After Gonzalez bolted 12 yards to give the Wolves a 7-6 lead at 7:48, after the turnover, “Blue Eyes” Guerrero entered the game and ran the club with a solid hand. He converted a 3rd-and-5 play with a toss to Trevino and then found the same man across the middle for a 35-yard pickup on 2nd and 32. The catch Trevino made, with one outstretched hand as he raced left to right, is as good as it’s going to get, period. Check the video.
That drive ended in a field goal miss from Jaime “Automatic” Juarez, but with DB Tony Barrera (eight tackles) starring, the Bobcats soon got the ball back. Memorial ace receiver Gilbert Gutierrez, the Valley’s leading yardage gainer, was nicked up after a Reyna smash to his ankle, and was not a factor all night, with three grabs for 25 yards.
Trailing by one, the ‘Cats got a great punt return of 32 yards from Jaime Sauceda, with Big Joe Fuentes clearing a path, and later Guajardo broke 25 yards for the TD that put the Red and Blue in front, 14-7, after Guererro’s two-point conversion run at 11:52 of the second.
Then followed a bizarre sequence of five plays, with the defenses making three interceptions and a sack. Down lineman Garza, the burly and ebullient tackle, resembled a grizzly pawing a salmon in mid-jump as he made his first career pick (of a wayward screen try) to the delight of the fans.
Late in the half, Martinez raced down on punt coverage, smacked the return man to cause a fumble, and pounced on the loose ball. After a big Guerrero-to-Manny Menchaca connection down to the 12, Juarez redeemed himself with a 35-yard three-pointer with two seconds left in the half for a 17-7 advantage.
“Stevie can make plays with his feet, he eludes the rush very well,” commented Caceres, after the juking junior completed 5 of 12 for 76 yards and rushed for 30 more. “I hated to make that move in a way, because Isaac has been with us since he was a sophomore…but I felt like we had to change the tempo of the game.”
The second half was all about the goal-line stand, as Edinburg manned up in the clutch and turned the Wolves back. The defensive charge continued later as end Felipe Pena made a key sack for minus-7 on QB Louie Gonzalez (15 of 29 with two picks).
After Gonzalez ran to the house for the 63-yarder with 10:50 to go, however, it was just 17-14.
To counter, the Bobcats hammered their way to the Memorial 11, thanks to some amazing pinch-hitting by soph Deandric “Cannonball” Maxwell. Unable to work out lately due to shin splints and a hip injury, the physical back nonetheless entered the game for the first time to reel off punching drives of 19 and 14 yards, electrifying the huge Homecoming Crowd with his power and bursts of speed. Still, the ‘Cats got a field goal blocked near the 6-minute mark, and the Wolves had another shot, down just three.
Junior Michael Padilla was the next ‘Cat defender to stand up, throwing Mike Fonseca for a 2-yard loss. Reyna and Menchaca corralled Gonzalez a yard short on a 3rd-down pass to force a punt, and then Edinburg finally put this one to bed with a quick 6-play skip from the Memorial 44, Sauceda motoring 25 yards for six on a 4th-and-1 carry with 1:55 left.
Next up for the resurgent club, winner of two straight, is Harlingen, the best team in the Valley by any estimation. But Guevara, never one to shy away from an exuberant celebration or a stirring comment, seemed to speak for the team with this statement:
“I think we can give them a game … I mean, North got the crap kicked out of them by the Cardinals this week, but I bet we can be more competitive with them.”
P-SJ-A MEMORIAL AT EHS
MEM 7 0 0 7 - 14
EHS 6 11 0 7 - 24
MEMORIAL: FD 14; RUSH 153; PASS 121; TOTAL 274; TO 3
EHS: FD 17; RUSH 206; PASS 118; TOTAL 324; TO 2
RUSH: Sauceda 11-81; Guajardo 14-46; Deandric Maxwell 3-34; Guerrero 8-30; Manny Menchaca 3-11; Aaron Gonzalez 3-11; Josh Mariscal 1-3; Isaac Escobar 1-(-10)
PASSING: Escobar 1-1-0 42; Guerrero 5-12-2 76
RECEIVING: Steve Trevino 5-103; Menchaca 1-15
TACKLES: Ciro Reyna 15; David Guevara 8; Tony Barrera 8; Rogelio Ortiz 6; Bryan Garza 5; Jeremy Salinas 5/INTERCEPTIONS: Sal Martinez, Garza/SACKS: Felipe Pena, Guevara/FUM RECOVERY: Martinez