There may be folks in town who were dismayed at the opener, a 30-9 shellacking the Bobcats suffered at home against McAllen Rowe. But it might be wise to keep in mind a number of points emerging from the start to the 2017 football season.
One is that the Warriors have a veteran skill group that is among the best in the Valley and appear to have a strong unit this season all around, probably the second best in 30-6A behind McAllen Memorial. Two is that the EHS charge to glory began with a slow roll in 2016 with defeats against Rowe and Lopez before the charge to the playoffs caught steam. And finally, despite the defeat Thursday at Richard R. Flores Stadium, the ‘Cats had their moments of more than competent play.
The main drawbacks were as follows: on defense, Edinburg did not tackle well in the open field, a very dangerous problem to have with the up-tempo, spread-‘em-out Warrior attack. In falling behind 20-3 at the half, the ‘Cats struggled to secure receivers in the flats and the fleet-footed Rowe crew made them pay, grinding for 206 total yards through two quarters.
On the other side of the ball, the Edinburg line did well to spring Herlin Benavides (87 yards on 15 carries) but the passing game was not a real factor in the fray. As a result, Coach J.J. Leija’s club mounted some drives but was unable to finish, settling for that lone field goal in the second period until finally getting on the board with six points in the waning minutes of the night.
The third element that contributed to difficulty was special teams, usually a program strong point. The ‘Cats gave away possession at their own 27 after a botched punt snap, surrendered a 56-yard punt return TD, and bungled the extra point after their lone touchdown.
But in all, there is reason for excitement about the season now in progress. As stated the O-line was sound, and Benavides, out with an injury last year, picked holes and got upfield with consistency. Promising receiver Kandan Dortch, though he fielded just two balls, has obvious breakaway ability while WR compadre Antoine Woodard (yes, the same) snared the team’s TD on a 14-yard pass from North transfer Danny Shawnee with 2:09 to go.
Defensively, junior Raymond Quintanilla led the way with nine tackles while vet Rollie Martinez contributed seven along with an interception. Rugged DL C.J. Renteria had six stops, as did linemate Angel Villanueva, with returning starter Manny Salinas making five.
To start the night, the ‘Cats drove to the Rowe 18 before throwing a pick, but then stopped a Warrior march as Abel Alonzo made a key third-down hit; Rowe missed a FG try.
A subsequent drive from the ‘Cats ended with a dropped pass on third down, but later, Martinez’ INT saved the day after the aforementioned punt-snap error.
Rowe got cranking to assume the lead of 14-0 and then perhaps the signature juncture. In the second stanza, EHS marched inside the enemy 10 but on fourth-and-2 was hit by a delay-of-game penalty out of a time out. Though David Zepeda then nailed a three-pointer, the chance to get seven against a high-scoring visitor was lost.
Indeed, penalties hurt the ‘Cats, especially after the break, including a personal foul early in the third and a silly unsportsmanlike flag that came on a touchback, Rowe kicking.
With Shawnee in for starter Matt Cruz, the offense moved against the Rowe second unit until Woodard rose high above a cornerback to snag the late TD. For the game, EHS ran for 109 yards on 38 carries and completed six of 15 passes for 81 yards. Rowe rushed for 148 and added 206 more through the air; turnovers were even at one apiece.
Next up for the club is a road trip to venerable Sams Stadium in Brownsville, where it will take on Brownsville Lopez in a battle of two of the Valley’s most surprising success stories of 2016.