Even after last week’s crushing loss to Edinburg North, the Econ Jags think they can still compete for a playoff spot this season.
The Jags led 13-0 before North came back for a 14-13 win at Cats Stadium, marking the third time in 2009 that the Orange (1-2, 3-3) have been ahead or tied at the half only to lose down the stretch.
Now they take on rival Edinburg High Friday, with a season riding on the outcome.
Coach Oscar Salinas’ bunch is explosive, with the city’s top rusher and scorer in junior Nelson Hampton, who has 440 yards and 56 points so far. The Jags have taken care of business against three winless teams, Lopez, Porter, and Harlingen South, and almost upset 30-5A power McAllen Memorial, dropping a 33-28 decision after having led 28-27.
Senior safety Andrew Fox, who had 20 tackles against North and has also added three touchdown catches in spot duty on offense, thinks that the attitude is still strong for his team.
“We’re healthy, no injuries, and we should have won the other night,” said Fox, a hard-hitting transfer from Miami. “We’re confident in what we can do despite the loss, and we know that this a must-win game. We have to pick it up Friday night to stay in the race.”
Fox attended the Edinburg-P-SJ-A game last Thursday, and said that he feels the Bobcats are beatable.
“To me, the Bears kind of blew it, they had a lead and couldn’t hold it,” he noted. “That means that we think we have a chance to do what they couldn’t.”
If the Jags are going to remain a factor in 31-5A, they have to finish. For the last two seasons, it’s been great first-half performances followed by subpar efforts after the break. This was the pattern against North as well as versus Pharr North, when Econ was tied with the vaunted Raiders in the third period before fading.
Edinburg, meanwhile, has showed it can finish lately and comes in at 2-1, 3-3, after a 33-32 OT win against P-SJ-A.
Coach Joey Caceres called it the “game of the year” for the ‘Cats, noting that for once, Edinburg was the team on top at the end, after it had dropped a last-second match to McAllen High and blown a halftime lead against Sharyland.
“Now we’re not losing it late, we’re winning it and it feels good,” said Caceres, whose bunch fought back from a 26-15 deficit with seven minutes left to win at Pharr. “There’s a whole different atmosphere around here these days.”
The coach said that a win Friday would put his team one victory away from the magic 4-win mark, traditionally good enough for one of the four postseason berths.
“But the guys are saying that they want to go 4-0 to finish, not 2-2 and that’s what we like to hear,” he added.
The ‘Cats will pit their grind-it-out attack against Fox and the quick and aggressive Wrecking Crew Defense, which has solid linebackers led by junior Victor Salinas, serviceable corners in Uliser Umanzor and Aaron Garcia, and a good-size D-line with ends Roger Garza and Mariano Garza plus inside brawlers Pedro Alvarado and Matthew Mariscal, the latter a converted offensive lineman.
It has been a backfield by committee this season after fullback Rolando Palacios went down with a season-ending knee injury against McAllen in Week One. Any number of kids will see the ball Friday night, and when junior QB Stevie Guerrero looks to throw, he can count on two of the best in Steven Trevino (27 catches) and Manny Menchaca (14).
EHS beat the Jags last year en route to a 4-6 finish that left it a game shy of the playoffs after a close loss to North in the season finale. The Bobcats have a tough Thursday muster on the road at Pharr North following the Econ game, and finish up with a road game at Harlingen South Oct. 30 and then the annual Catfight with the Cougars Nov. 6.
The Jags definitely need this one, as they play at league leader Harlingen Oct. 23, at home versus P-SJ-A Oct. 29, and then at P-SJ-A Memorial to close, Nov. 5. A triumph against the ‘Cats would give them two W’s in league, and they would have to defeat both Pharr schools to have a shot.