They just didn’t bring the proverbial “A” game for this one, and as a result the Bobcats became one-and-done victims in the state football playoffs, losing to Los Fresnos, 34-14 at home Thursday night.
After two early drives died inside the Los Fresnos 35, EHS, finishing 6-5 for the year, had trouble against a Falcon defense that ranked in the top three down in District 32-6A. Meanwhile, Los Fresnos (8-3) parlayed three long gainers into a 19-0 halftime lead and held serve in the second half.
Danny Shawnee came on in the second period and ended with 217 passing yards but the Bobcats never crawled out of a 27-0 hole. Star junior Hearlin Benavides found the going very tough against the Lower Valley foe, picking up 86 yards on 25 carries, the first time since the Vela game midseason that he failed to break 100.
Though the final yardage totals were close (384 to 338, Los Fresnos) the fact was that the visitor outplayed EHS in all phases, holding the ‘Cats to 102 rushing yards, a season low, and that sort of excellent effort against the trend usually spells victory in the postseason.
On a night where a plethora of ex coaches manned the sidelines – stadium namesake Richard Flores himself was joined by Joe Vazquez and Joey Caceres, with additional legends John Lerma, Pete Vela, Bruce Bush, and Mario Lopez – it looked like a RGV Sports Hall of Fame meeting.
Current EHS coach Coach J.J. Leija, who has piloted the program to the playoffs in both of his seasons, noted the attendance of his colleagues of yore and was hoping to post a performance worthy of them. At times, the ‘Cats did this, driving twice in the first period, only to see the marches expire at the 34 and 35 of Los Fresnos. Combine those misses with a fumble at the Falcon 1 (fourth period) and a pair of dropped touchdowns in the end zone, and it is a fact: with a few positive outcomes in execution, this one might have ended up very differently.
Defensively, EHS surrendered plays of 28, 59, and 40 in the first 24 minutes, along with a long punt return that set up a 12-yard TD march. Other than that, the unit was solid, though as time wore on, good-size quarterback LF Charles Chapa found more and more holes in a weary D.
Having given up a score near the end of the first period, and another with 4:40 to go in the half, the ‘Cats were still alive, down 13. But Benavidez, who scored twice and pushed his season total to 1,673 yards, fumbled at the Los Fresnos 21 with 0:39 left in the half. Immediately, Los Fresnos pounced with a 59-yard run by Chapa, and moments later crunched into the end zone for a 19-0 advantage. Absolute turning point there.
To begin the third, the Falcons controlled the ball, running 18 plays to just three for the ‘Cats, taking a 27-0 lead at 1:04. From there it was all but decided, despite that sharp performance by the senior Shawnee. Ramon Lopez led the receivers with six catches for 85 yards as the offense eschewed the long ball – which had not worked at all in the first half – in favor of intermediate routes. Angel Salinas finished with three grabs for 61 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the charge was blunted when leading tackle Raymond Quintanilla went out with a knee injury after about 10 minutes. Lazaro Patlan, Mannie Salinas, and Athen Villanueva picked up the slack, Salinas ending with a gutty 10-tackle night and the other two getting eight each. Rollie Martinez had five stops and two passes defensed, while C.J. Renteria was in on six hits.
Benavides, who returns next season, enjoyed one of the greatest seasons a runner in town has ever put together, scoring 18 times and rushing with continual success that puts him right up there with the best of the best, such as Carlos Esquivel in 1953, Orly Montalvo in 1975, and Corbin Epps (1994) among others. His total of 1,673 yards is believed to be a school record.