PHARR - In 1971, these two played one for the ages, with the Bears and Bobcats battling to a bloody scoreless tie; EHS won on penetrations and eventually advanced to the playoffs, with the 9-0-1 P-SJ-A team staying home after allowing just 27 points all season.
Friday as the Bears' Class of 1972 was honored 40 years after the fact, the two squads engaged in an old-fashioned slugfest that must have had the veterans thinking wistfully of the old days. This time the ‘Cats pounded out a 17-7 victory, thanks to two time-consuming touchdown drives, a clutch fourth-quarter field goal, and some mighty outstanding defense throughout.
The road win marks the third triumph in a row for the ‘Cats, now 3-2 in District 31-5A and 5-3 overall, after a 0-2 league beginning. With P-SJ-A Memorial coming to Cats Stadium Thursday, Coach Joey Caceres' team can probably cement a playoff spot if it can get past the Wolverines, also 3-2, 5-3 after beating Harlingen South Friday.
"We've been playing good defense lately and tonight we were able to move the ball, keep it away from the Bears," said Caceres, searching for the team's third playoff trip in a row. "We held them when we had to, got that big field goal late, and we took one step closer to the playoffs. The Bobcats are playing some good football right now."
And the result was vintage EHS, as the team drove 73 and 70 yards for scores to take a 14-0 halftime lead against P-SJ-A (2-3, 2-6). The ‘Cats benefited from a fumble recovery by Sal Martinez and drove 70 yards to gain a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. On the way, they converted three third-down tries, with Victor Montemayor (87 yards, really nice power running) crashing in from the 4 on third and one at 11:55.
"Our line did a nice job of moving them out up front," said Caceres, whose offense gained 241 yards total but kept the turnovers (one) and the penalties to a dull roar in a must-execute situation in a hostile environment. "We planned to keep the Bears off the field by having sustained drives and in the first half, we did just that."
Though the EHS D limited the Bears to 226 yards, the home side got a solid drive working in the second quarter down 7-0, penetrating to the ‘Cat 14 before senior tackle Johnny Espinosa came up with back-to-back sacks to force a field goal try, which missed at 5:11. Espinosa had a monster game when his team needed it most with 11 tackles, while Martinez made 14 and linebacker Adam Alonzo chipped in with 14.
In the last four games, the ‘Cats have allowed just 34 points, as the unit is peaking at the perfect juncture. Soph LB Armando Celedon was active Friday, with six tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery.
After the stop, quarterback Ramon Enriquez (8 of 12 for 96 yards) led the club down on a 73-yard march, hitting speedy Favian Quintanilla on two flat passes totaling 33 yards. EHS took the 14-0 bulge when Montemayor bounced in from the 1 at 1:27 of the second.
The Bears rallied in the third on a fluky 76-yard touchdown pass that evaded Martinez and bounced into the hands of Justin Salinas, putting the count at 14-7, EHS at 1:27. Earlier, Francisco Rodriguez had foiled a Bear fake-punt attempt to give the ‘Cats possession at the P-SJ-A 37, but the offense could not cash in the break.
With the season perhaps hanging in the balance, the Bobcats powered their way onward in the fourth, again coming up smooth on three third-down tries, the biggest being a 20-yard pass from Enriquez to senior Justin Hernandez on a third-and-eight play. Enriquez rolled right and at the last minute near the sideline fired one on a rope to Hernandez at the Bear 27.
Soon the march bogged down, however, and on came dependable sophomore kicker Kristov Martinez, who slammed through a 27-yard field goal with 5:05 to go.
The Bears, not known as a fast 2-minute offense group, rolled to a 12-play drive in the late going, reaching the EHS 28 before Espinosa stalked the passer to force an incompletion on fourth down. The Bobcat stars showed their winning colors on the last sequence, as Martinez made six tackles and Espinosa four.
"We struggled a bit after the half, and they had that one big play," said Caceres, whose club finishes with 2-3 Harlingen South on the road Nov. 4 after Memorial Thursday. "But we did manage to get some first downs in the second half, and that one drive for the field goal was huge. Kristov has become a real weapon for us, with his leg. He is very cool for a sophomore."
EHS AT P-SJ-A
EHS (3-2, 5-3) 0 14 0 3 - 17
PSJA (2-3, 2-6) 0 0 7 0 - 7
E: Victor Montemayor 4 run (Kristov Martinez kick) 11:55
E: Montemayor 1 run (Martinez kick) 0:57
E: Martinez 27 FG 5:05
EHS: FD 14; RUSH 145; PASS 96; TOTAL 241; TO 1
RUSH: Montemayor 19-87; Arnie Alvarado 9-29; Favian Quintanilla 9-23; Sal Martinez 1-10; Ramon Enriquez 3-(-4)
PASS: Enriquez 8-12-0 96
RECEIVING: Quintanilla 3-60; Justin Hernandez 2-25; Alvarado 2-7; Montemayor 1-4
TACKLES: Adam Alonzo 14; S. Martinez 14; Johnny Espinosa 11; Armando Celedon 6/SACKS: Espinosa 2; Celedon; Alonzo ˝, S. Martinez ˝/FUM: S. Martinez, Celedon,
PSJA: FD 11; RUSH 132; PASS 94; TOTAL 226; TO 2