Only with a city rivalry game on the horizon can one witness the juxtaposition of such interesting details.
With the North-Econ clash on tap for Friday, Cats Stadium enjoyed some unusual scenes Friday as the Jags pounded Harlingen South, 20-0. For starters, at the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a group of North rooters on hand shouted “Cougars” at the juncture of the anthem preceded by “Home of the…”
Since the Coogs had played Thursday, winning 31-28 in the last 15 seconds over in Pharr over the Bears of P-SJ-A, several dozen players and fans attended the Jag tilt.
At halftime, North linebacker Josh DeLuna walked into the parking lot, with Econ up 20-0. Who do you guys play next, he was asked.
“Them,” he smiled, thumbing back in the direction of the field. “Jags.”
And this year, the annual Catfight promises to be hotly contested, indeed, with each team holding a 3-2 record overall, 1-1 in District 31-5A.
As Econ blanked South Friday, several of the Orangeclads were already thinking about the grudge match to come.
“I know a lot of those guys, have played with and against then when we were younger,” said linebacker Victor Salinas, who made 13 tackles versus South and appears to be back in good form after a knee injury has plagued him this year through five contests. “I think we can beat them if we want it bad enough.”
Running back Isaac Vazquez, who has picked up over 200 yards this year while splitting time with Gary Rodriguez and Nelson Hampton in a deep and talented backfield, noted that the running back group is ready for action against the Coogs.
“I think we can pick them apart, we have some good backs this year,” said the jittery scatback. “I think it will be a great game, and of course I think we will win.”
At halftime, a Jag fan painted blue from head to shoe yelled out, “Cougars suck!” in answer to the throng of North supporters that had invaded Cats Stadium.
While the players wouldn’t go that far, they seem to feel that they can pull the upset, as was the case in 2007, when North made the playoffs but stumbled against Econ in the late going. Last year the Coogs blasted their foe, 35-7.
Tight end Mario Lamas, who has made some big catches this season, including a 47-yard TD against Pharr North, was ejected from Friday’s game against South after a first-hald brawl. He plans on keeping his cool this week.
“If we step it up, yes, we can do it,” said the chiseled senior. “If the D plays the way they did tonight, we will definitely do it.”
The Jags held South to 83 total yards, but the Coogs come into the shootout with one of the Valley’s most potent offense, having scored 158 points in five tries.
So the Jags are going to have to put up some points to hang tough, and Coach Oscar Salinas believed that is a distinct possibility, with the dangerous duo of Andrew Fox and Nelson Hampton getting pretty deep throws from senior QB Rudy Villarreal. The trio combined for all 20 of Econ’s points against the Hawks.
“We want to keep it close and play four quarters against them,” said Salinas, who has his team looking nasty after a miserable 2-8 season in ’08. “The kids have confidence this year and they can make some plays. We know North has a great team, that’s obvious, but we feel we can do some things to stay with them.”
To complete the pre-brawl scene a week before the city rivals renew their mutual antagonism, there was Robert Rodriguez, riding in a Gator with his dad, Robert Sr., an aggressive defensive end on North’s unbeaten district champ team of 1992. Rodriguez Jr. is a hard-charging linebacker as a junior, and he scooped up sideline yard markers as his dad, the Cats Stadium groundskeeping guru, piloted the vehicle.
The post-game cleanup tandem rolled past the celebrating Jags, who were paying homage to the school song in the aftermath of the win over South.
“It’s going to be a tough game with a lot of hard hits,” said Rodriguez. “I think it will boil down to who wants it more, and who has more pride.”