SAN ANTONIO — This time there was no fourth-quarter magic or thrilling miracles…just the cold reality of facing a faster, more aggressive team on basically its home turf.
EHS came to a thudding halt Saturday night in the AlamoDome, giving away three easy touchdowns with miscues and losing a regional playoff game against San Antonio Wagner, 31-10. Ending the year 10-3, the Bobcats ran into a speedy and hard-hitting challenger that came in just 6-6 but on a roll as of late. The first EHS play from scrimmage was an interception by Wagner, and four plays after that it was 7-0.
After Wagner put two more TDs on the board within 24 seconds of each other early in the third, a 7-3 Thunderbird lead became 21-3 and it was about over. Unlike the area-round comeback against Sharyland, this one was not going to happen, not with an athletic T-Bird group feeling its oats after some timely gifts.
Though the ‘Cats rebounded for a nice 80-yard drive culminated with a touchdown pass from Stevie Guerrero to tight end David Ramirez, the season was on the wane.
The key, besides the gimme scores to start the third, was Edinburg’s inability to move on the ground, as the run game picked up just 37 yards. The defense did a solid job, holding Wagner to 268 total yards, but after a fullback dive went 42 yards for six in the third, it was 28-10 and EHS never recovered.
“They had good speed, we had seen it on film but we just couldn’t contend with it tonight,” said Coach Joey Caceres, whose ball club reached the third round for the first time since 2000. “They were really quick and we couldn’t get much going.”
Guerrero, who threw for 125 yards but took an awful pounding, agreed with his coach.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect ball game, although we try to play perfect,” said the gutty senior, who endured through a painful shoulder injury suffered in the third period. “We knew they were fast, but we all played to the whistle. No one on that field ever quit.”
Despite the early mistake, Edinburg hung tough in the first half, and was down just three at the half. With Wagner closing off the run and rushing Guerrero relentlessly, the ‘Cats gained just 57 yards in the half. But with linebacker Roy Ortiz (12 tackles) leading the way, the defense stymied the T-Birds well enough. Tackle Johnny Espinoza and safeties Teddy Lara (combined for 22 stops) also had creditable efforts against Wagner, with senior Ciro Reyna adding 12 hits in his final appearance as a Bobcat.
EHS went three and out on its first drive of the second half and punter Ramirez was forced to run from punt formation, giving Wagner the ball at the Bobcat 8. It was soon 14-3 and Guerrero lost a fumble on the next possession, leading to a 1-play drive that made it 21-3 at 9:27.
The Bobcats finally stretched the field on the next march, getting a 25-yard catch-and-run from Jonathan Gonzalez and a 14-yard draw from Guerrero to energize a huge Valley crowd. Three more completions moved the ball to the Wagner 9, where Ramirez (five catches or 58 yards) broke a tackle after a reception in the right flat and hurtled into the end zone for a TD at 5:46.
At the end of the third the T-Birds broke that 42-yarder up the middle, and that was that. In the emotional postgame din, Caceres told his team that it had nothing to be ashamed of.
“We went through a lot together this season,” he said. “Not a lot of teams were playing in the third round, we accomplished a lot no matter what.”
The senior Ramirez challenged the underclassmen to take it a step further next year, while Guerrero made a heartfelt thank-you to his teammates.
“When I was a freshman, I wasn’t even going to play,” said the valiant passer, who had rallied the team from 17 points down against Sharyland to send the ‘Cats to San Antonio. “But I am so glad I did! I love each and every one of you guys, and remember, we played for ourselves, our families, and for the red and blue stitched across your chest…always keep that Bobcat Pride!”
The ‘Cats had taken the field at the AlamoDome knowing that they were the Valley’s last hope, after Harlingen, McAllen Memorial, and Weslaco East lost Friday. Against a .500 Wagner team that had gotten hot at season’s end, it seemed like EHS had a solid chance to advance to the fourth round for the first time since 1999. But they gave it away and had to play from behind the whole way.
“It came down to who made the fewest mistakes, and they [Wagner] were able to come through,” Ramirez concluded.