PHARR – How does one begin to describe a Dream Game, a nearly perfect performance that clinched a share of the District 31-6A championship for the SaberCats here Thursday night?
Start with a mammoth output of 681 total yards on offense, and a season-high 70 points, two marks off the program record. Vela ran to 6-0 in league, 9-0 overall by firing for three touchdowns in the first period, needing just four plays to accomplish a 21-0 lead over a stunned P-SJ-A squad.
Continue with a terrific defensive effort, as the Sabes held super junior Trey Guajardo in check for the most part, limiting him to 15 of 33 passing, with two interceptions. Using their team speed and a palpable sense of urgency, the unit never let the Bears beat them with big plays, or run the ball with any real effect.
The Vela offense took care of the big plays, baby!
With senior Nate Garcia (12 of 17 for 259 yards) finding four different receivers for touchdowns, Vela made a mockery of the Game of the Week, dominating a Bear contingent that came in unbeaten, and left not.
The 70-22 victory started with the gang-tackling defense containing Guajardo well enough to force a pick by Nick Enriquez and then two short punts from the struggling Bears, playing against a fair wind to begin. Knowing that the enemy scouts had fixated on the usual play script calling for short flat passes in the early going, Vela and Garcia went bombs away instead, with Aziel Garcia and sophomore Justin Cantu hauling in scoring strikes of 39 and 36 yards, respectively. In between was a 56-yard bolt to six from chugging Aaron Alvarez and by 6:59 of the first, it was just about Game Over.
The Bears finally got Guajardo loose a bit, driving for a score near the end of the period. But the Sabes just kept on coming, getting a 31-yard run from Alvarez, who blasted for 155 yards while teammate Sam Valenzuela rumbled for 121 and three TDs. Thursday, Vela compiled a smashing team total of 422 rushing yards.
It was uncanny. With a fired-up Ian Sarmiento, among others, leading the defensive charge, John Campbell’s team subdued the Bears, series by series. All told, the D would sack the passer five times and take three turnovers. Conversely, Pharr never got a handle on the offensive group in blue and black. Vela caroused to three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the half to take an insurmountable 49-14 lead into the break. Brandon Guzman snared a 38-yard pass, Valenzuela barreled in from the 3, and Nico Rodriguez grabbed a 10-yard TD, the last just after Nick Gomez’s interception set the club up inside the Red Zone.
Simply no real mistakes to speak of, as Vela advanced to battle in a key clash and demolished a previously unblemished foe, absolutely erasing the Bears in front of a huge, initially jacked crowd.
LET THE PRINCIPLES SPEAK
Defensive tackle Sergio Carrizales had the answer for the fine performance from the D.
“We have this system called LOAF,” explained the mauling lineman, who got great assistance from Arturo Pena as the front men hustled, re-hustled, and kept fighting after Guajardo all night. “You miss a tackle, or don’t hustle and you get a point. We started with Nixon in Game One and had something like 280 points … now last week we were at 14, and this week, maybe none. It’s all about who wants to play hard, play D, and win.”
Campbell certainly did not catch any of his tacklers loafing and was exceedingly pleased with the win.
“We knew Trey was making a lot guys miss, extending plays, he’s been doing it all year,” said the first-year mentor, nine up and nine to the good so far. “We were concerned with his scrambling ability so the goal was to keep after him, disrupt his first and second reads, and try to affect the passing lanes. Very proud of my defense tonight, the Bears didn’t make any big plays against us.”
Offensive spokesman Nate Garcia – who has starred in clutch situations before, let it be said – was characteristically humble after the rout.
“Real good game,” he grinned. “Real good. We took what they gave us, they wanted to come up and press on the outside so we knew the vertical throws would be there.”
When asked about all the media hype that Guajardo has been getting in 2017, Garcia was Garcia.
“Great player, he deserves it. The thing is, I keep to myself for the most part, I know what I can do,” he commented. “And what I love to do is to play the game with my boys, to help our team win. I don’t worry about the other stuff much at all.”
The Sabes came into the night with more Bright Light experience, despite some graduation losses off last season’s 9-win group. P-SJ-A on the other hand, took just three victories in 2016, and has a relatively young crew, talented but unseasoned. This moxie disparity showed itself all night as Vela churned to the finish line, the Bears limping home into second place.
Straight up: no question about this one. None.