For the second week in a row, the Jags found themselves trailing, and for the second week in a row they calmly got down to business and obtained the victory. In the season opener, Econ was down at Hanna before rallying to a 19-14 decision. This time it was a 13-9 win over visiting Palmview, courtesy of a superb drive to start the third period that erased a 9-6 deficit.
Coach Gabe Pena was all smiles after the triumph, noting that his team was able to shake off some stretches of poor play and compete like winners.
“It was tough tonight, but we found a way, we’re 2-0,” said Pena, whose club takes on Weslaco East next. “We had to make some adjustments, play some mind games with our kids at halftime. They didn’t give up, they just kept going, and that is the culture we have now: don’t panic, just keep playing and good things will happen eventually.”
After losing three turnovers in the first half, Econ settled in after the break to take the lead. The Jags went 69 yards in nine plays to go ahead on a bruising burst up the middle from the 9, as Gabriel Ornelas did the honors at 8:48.
From there it was zeroes across the board as the Jag D dug in and hammered the Lobos into submission.
Palmview (1-1) threatened in the third, reaching the Jag 31 before senior Chris Maldonado recovered a fumble. Maldonado, with a sizable cheering section rooting him on from the stands, was all over the field in the second half from his end position, making five tackles and pressuring the quarterback with abandon.
His defensive group had a taxing but successful night, as in the first half the Lobos dominated time of possession and took a 9-6 advantage. But conditioning and depth/rotation helped the Orange weather the storm. Late in the game Jaime Saenz and Ricky de Leon made a Palmview runner cough it up, leading to a recovery at 4:11 by Domingo Rios, the baseball player who hit it out of the park Friday with a team-high 15 tackles. Close behind was stalwart plugger Nicholas Villanueva (12) while Saenz and junior Abel Moreno added 10 each.
Early in the evening the Jags surrendered a score after a lost fumble, but got even at 6-6 when QB Albert Guerra located a streaking Pete Segura downfield for a 51-yard gain. Soon after that, Sonny Castillo cracked in from the 7 to tie it; however, Castillo was to leave the game with an injury minutes later.
In his place, the Jags relied in Ornelas (41 yards, six carries) and pint-size powerpack Lee Maldonado (70 yards on nine tries, ripped off three big gains) to hold the fort. The team amassed 163 on the ground and Guerra was 8 of 13 for 121 more in the air.
The Lobos picked up 177 rushing and 100 passing but were held scoreless in the second half. On their last drive, they were stymied by the Jags, Chris Maldonado leading a stand to seal the W.
Pena noted that even when his crew doesn’t hit on all cylinders, he still has faith in its character to persevere.
“It happens sometimes, you practice well all week and when you come out, it just gets tough,” he said. “No matter how hard you work, there are going to be games where you just have to gut it out, keep working, and this was one of them tonight.”
The Orange got fine punting from senior hoopster Omar Trevino, whose high spiraling boots kept the Lobos at bay consistently. Segura teamed well with Roger Barrientos, who caught three balls for 39 yards and almost went all the way on one reception. Other standouts included DB Jose Castillo (nine tackles) and DL David Galvan. Junior LB Marco Plata injured an ankle midway through after a solid showing; his status is unknown.
The battle against East at Richard R. Flores Stadium Friday will come against a 1-1 Wildcat club that was beaten last week, 28-14 by McAllen Memorial.
NOTES: In other city action, both EHS and North held the lead before succumbing, the Bobcats at Lopez and Cougars at Sharyland. Edinburg (0-2) got out to a 14-0 lead on the Lobos and were up 24-13 after a second TD from Hearlin Benavides. Lopez rallied down the stretch to take it, 28-24, and now the ‘Cats will look to regroup Thursday at home against Palmview.
North battled with the Rattlers all the way and appeared to be set after a last-minute field goal provided a 20-17 advantage. But Shary came down and got into the end zone in the closing seconds to post a 24-20 victory. The Coogs (0-2) are also in action Thursday, on the road at Harlingen South (1-1).