The Comeback Kids did it again!
After an absolutely moribund start to their season against Harlingen South, the Bobcats came roaring back to redemption, putting 34 points on the board in the second half to claim a 34-21 victory over the Hawks at Richard R. Flores Stadium Friday.
It was night and day for EHS as it rebounded from a mistake-riddled initial stretch – two first downs the entire half – to turn a 14-0 deficit into a 1-0 record Friday night.
Hearlin Benavides rambled for more than 100 yards in each half to end with 218, while fellow senior Matt Cruz erased an 0-for-8 first half with a sterling 6-for-6 passing performance in the second, including touchdown flips to Ricky Alaniz, Benavides, and Adrian Garza.
The defense, torched in the opening half by a quick-footed South O that evaded the front line and took advantage of some gaping holes, closed down the field after intermission, limiting the visitor to just one score.
As the Bobcats sputtered to a very poor half, their biggest weapon was senior Raymond Quintanilla, who boomed a couple of long punts to keep the Hawks at bay; he also made a team-high 17 tackles.
The start was just atrocious, as South took a 7-0 lead and the ‘Cats blew a scoring chance when after Benavides burst 58 yards to a first-and-goal, the home side eventually missed a 19-yard field goal try. The Hawks drove 80 yards to go up 14-0 late in the first and nearly put it out of reach a few minutes later. But Emmanuel Duron and Lazaro Patlan came up with sacks to force a missed three-pointer and the ‘Cats went into the lockers to regroup.
This they did with a dagger, coming out and forcing a South fumble on the kickoff, Duron making it and Devin Cura (younger bro of former ‘Cat Jacob Cura) getting it. EHS scored Cruz-to-Alaniz but then gave up a fumble at its own 9, leading to a South tally for a 21-7 lead at 7:04 of the third.
Undaunted, the Red and Blue went back to work. The middle had been clogged all night by a huge and active South front, so J.J. Leija’s crew spread the field, inserting junior Eric Cano, who picked up 57 yards rushing in the half and made two clutch catches. The strategy worked, and Cruz began to see openings through the air.
Benavides got loose again, this time for 79 yards down to the South 2, and he banged over on the next snap, making it 21-14, Green Birds, at 6:34. The defense – which yielded just six first downs in the second half after having surrendered 15 in the first – held up its end and back to work went the ‘Cats, with Cano hauling in a key 10-yard pass on 4th and 10. Soon, it was Garza in the end zone with a 2-yard catch and at 2:40, tie game.
South drove to the Bobcat 37 before fading, and as third turned into fourth, EHS went on a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 6-yard toss from Cruz to Benavides at 8:18.
The ‘Cats added the final touches after Ryan Ochoa raced 48 yards on a punt return to set his team up at the enemy 16. From there, Benavides capped the quick-striking march with a short burst at 4:20.
The comeback win was reminiscent of the Econ game last year, when EHS was struggling at the half only to throw 28 points up to outplay the Jags. The key each time was that when they went down, the Bobcats didn’t quit.
“In the halftime we didn’t get all mad, we just kept quiet and listened to our coaches,” said senior linebacker Mario Rodriguez, who chipped in with 10 tackles to nearly match safety Mannie Salinas’ 12. Senior Athen Villanueva was in on 10 tackles. “We were like, ‘this isn’t us, we can do better,’ and we came out and played like it.”
Leija said that his team came out flat, which just sometimes happens.
“We’ve been behind before, and the guys know what to do when that happens,” said the coach. “We just had to come out and play Bobcat Football, show the other team who we were. We worked on finding some angles, spreading the field, and we started doing the things we knew we could do.”
The Bobcats are on the road this week, playing Brownsville Rivera Saturday night at Sams Stadium. The Raiders were blistered, 50-13, by Brownsville Vets Friday.