It happened at 21:30 of the second half. Two warrior rams met at the top of the cliff and commenced to butting horns in a fierce and monumental struggle between elders of the tribes.
The legal if vicious clash between Jona Segundo of Econ and Esteban Lopez of North was breathtaking in its raw, elemental beauty, and indicative of the brawl the two teams engaged in Friday at North, a taut and spectacular scoreless duel that ended finally with the Jags winning in penalty kicks.
Segundo had spent much of the night buffeted by either Lopez, the man-size senior in back for the Coogs, or the aggressive midfielder “Gallo” Rodriguez. Midway through the second stanza Segundo held possession as on his back, Lopez used strength and agility to stymie his foe’s momentum. For at least 15 seconds they grappled, maneuvered and competed, a moment of unparalleled excellence from two of the best the city has ever produced.
Econ’s 1-0 victory was assured in extra action as GK Javi Perez came up with a fifth-kick save on Rodriguez, whereupon Segundo crossed the North minder back to the latter’s left for the winning shot. The two points put the Jags at 25 for the season, three behind P-SJ-A Southwest and four up on EHS. North, which ruled the run of play in the first half and held off an Econ flurry after the break, dropped a point behind fourth-place P-SJ-A Memorial. There are three games left, including Tuesday’s home showdown against Southwest for the Jags. North faces its own pressure match that night, at EHS.
The Coogs got a terrific work rate from former Econ standout Brandon Perez Friday and inspired defending from sophomore David Pena. But the highlights were the mammoth confrontations between the sinewy, relentless Segundo and the North stop troops.
The loss marked the fourth time in district that the Coogs have gone down in PKs, but Coach Elias Moran’s side is now approaching the sort of precision that made 2017 such a memorable campaign. Friday they get a chance to knock Memorial out (at home), but must first negotiate their way past the Bobcats, who have won three straight, scoring 11 and allowing just one goal during that span.
LADY COOGS RALLY TO EXTEND LEAD
In the nightcap Friday, the Lady Jags toiled with pride and poise, building a 1-0 lead on first-place North until a late first-half breakdown led to a pair of scores from the home girls. With Vela beating Memorial 2-0 at home Friday, an Econ upset would have roiled the 31-6A standings considerably.
But Coach Danny Valdez’ unit regrouped behind the leadership of Elvira Torres to score two times in the final eight minutes. The Lady Jags actually appeared to go up 2-1 at one point before a very late offside flag. Minutes later, Nena Beccera sent a free kick long into the box which Cecelia Oros handled with a header pass to Vanessa Cuevas: the recent goal machine slotted the ball at 0:57 and that two-goal swing was all it took as North then added two after intermission to cruise onward.
With the three-point result, North headed into the homestretch at 29 points, with Vela and Memorial knotted at 25. The Lady SaberCats gutted up for perhaps their strongest effort of the league season Friday, outworking the Lady Wolverines and beating them soundly. P-SJ-A is fourth with 20 points and plays at Memorial Tuesday. A victory by the Lady Bears could do wonders for Vela, seeking to grasp second clear and free; last season the club finished third and was defeated easily by Harlingen South in bi-district. It looks like either Harlingen or South this season for 2/3 from 31-6A, with Los Fresnos in first down there and Brownsville Rivera fourth.
North looks like a solid bet to win the title and is getting contributions all over the field these days. Friday Marifer Gonzalez enjoyed a fruitful first half with a number of fine passes while freshman Lizzie Loera on the wing was active and productive as well. Classmate Janelle Saenz found the net against Econ. As for the Lady Jags, they saw yet another early lead fall by the wayside, following a 2-0 advantage against Memorial Tuesday that did not hold up.
Heading into the annual Cats Relays this week, several city track teams appeared in the most recent Valley Mythical Rankings. The Econ boys are in a second-place tie right now with three trendsetters: Pete Segura in the high jump, Kyle Marroquin in the 110-meter hurdles, and Gustavo Vazquez in the triple jump. Vela’s Rylan Olguin tops the list in the pole vault while returning star Tristan Pena of North is top six in three distance races, including second in the 1600.
The Lady Jags are off to a fine start at No. 6 in the Valley with Vela eighth. Monique Rodriguez leads the pack in the triple jump as expected, and Brittany Cantu has given the squad a boost with her solid showing in the throws. Vela is getting mileage out of Sophia Ramirez in the 200 and Lili Perez in the 800, and hopes its sprint relay crew can win the Cats. EHS’s Natalie Martinez is up to 5-4 in the high jump, tied for second in the Mythicals with the great Valeria Tobias of Edinburg Idea Quest, also No. 1 in the 800.
The Cats Relays comes off Friday-Saturday, leaving a month before the District 31-6A meet; the Meet of Champs happens March 23-24 in Weslaco.