AFTER 24-23 LOSS TO MEMORIAL, ROAD GAME VERSUS BEARS IS KEY
In the latter stages Thursday, when the going began to get dicey and the visiting Wolverines had started to pick up steam, the Jags tried to fight the feeling. The feeling that this ball game was beginning to seem eerily similar to the previous one.
The previous one, a 28-17 loss to EHS in the Sept. 29 district opener, had come when Econ surrendered a 17-point lead in the fourth period. This time, the club achieved a 12-point advantage with eight minutes left but alas, could not hold it. Memorial, which gained just 187 yards to 325 for Econ, pulled off an improbable victory thanks to a late interception return for a score and a blocked Jag field goal attempt with 0:09 to go.
Looking back on an excruciating 24-23 defeat, the Jags could point to a number of factors that contributed to the result. One was a two-point conversion runback by the Wolverines early on, after the Jags (0-2 in league, 2-3 overall) had tallied first for a 6-0 lead. That two-pointer ended up being the margin of victory, technically.
Another key juncture of this one was actually two moments, with Econ stopped on downs at the Memorial 10 twice in the second half. That and four turnovers committed by the Jags cancelled out the four they took from the Wolverines, with the biggest miscue of the night being the Pick Six at 5:38 of the fourth. The play came just seconds after the visitor had cut the lead to 5 with a TD drive following an Econ fumble.
Thus, the East Side Gang might well be 2-0 in district but instead limps into this week’s tough road test at P-SJ-A in basically a must-win situation.
The defeat wasted a mammoth effort from a number of individuals, including senior flier Pete Segura, junior cornerback Abel Moreno, and linebacker Jaime Saenz. Segura hauled in eight balls for a whopping 176 yards and scored on a beautiful 72-yard bomb from QB Albert Guerra, giving the team a 14-2 first period lead. He also had a tremendous 70-yard punt return TD called back on a penalty, and that hurt.
Moreno was amazing with three fumble recoveries, a blocked punt, and 10 tackles, while defensive teammate Saenz (whose cousin, Mike was a solid LB/DL a few years back and wore the same jersey number, 21) continued to come alive, collecting a team-high 12 stops and a safety to boot.
When Memorial, which had woes on the snap all night, hiked the pigskin past the punter and into the end zone, it was Saenz reaching the accident scene first to trap the punter and record the deuce. At that point it was 23-11, Jags, at 8:46 of the ball game, but from there Econ did what it had done against the Bobcats: seemingly in control, the Jags – working on a string of four playoff appearances in five seasons – just Did. Not. Finish.
And it cost them again.
This was a choppy contest filled with mistakes, the Jags scoring first soon after Moreno fell on a fumbled opening kickoff at the Memorial 27. Guerra (18 of 31 for 250 yards but three interceptions) found Omar Trevino down the seam with a 27-yard score at 10:54. The Wolves then blocked the PAT and ran it back all the way, but from there, more Jag quality. After Ricky de Leon stopped a Memorial drive with a fumble recovery at his own 29, the Orange got the big ball from Guerra to the streaking Segura, who gathered it in on the full gallop and went all the way for six.
Next, Memorial, which turned it over four times in the first half, lost a fumble to Moreno, but Econ gave it right back with an errant pass. For the game the home side passed 31 times and ran 29 as the offense continues to go Spread, eschewing the traditional Slot-T used for the past five seasons.
Moreno’s partial block of a punt set up the next score for the Jags, a 13-yard run from Guerra at 10:57 of the second; this made it 21-5. The Wolverines produced a late TD pass to get to within 10 at 21-11 heading into halftime. The third period was scoreless.
Later, after the Wolverines rallied with those two bang-bang scores, the Jags were up against it, down a point despite having more or less dominated the run of play. In the waning minutes they momentarily seemed to have the enemy pinned at its own 1 on a punt from Trevino. But touchback was the call as the Jags’ cover man stepped into the end zone with the ball.
Still, defensively, Econ did well, with Marco Plata coming through with two hits to force a Wolve punt and a last-gasp Orange effort with just less than two minutes to go.
Domingo Ramos raced 20 yards to the Memorial 48 on the kick and Guerra moved them smartly downfield, hitting Segura for 16 and running for 10 more. But the team was out of timeouts and on third-and-3 from the 13 a run gained just three yards. With time running out, the field goal unit rushed onto the field to try and win it, but the snap was mishandled, the kick smothered before it even left the turf.
A devastating loss by any metric, and now comes gut check time for the Jags. For the past several seasons this group has made a living out of seizing the winnable matches with consistent play in the late stretches. For the past two weeks, however, that element has been missing in action.