WITH ECON ON TAP NEXT
The rain and lightning caused a delay of the start on Friday night, but eventually there was no way to avoid the inevitable. Scoring on eight of its first nine drives and shutting the Cougars until the final 31 seconds, Vela cruised to a 56-7 victory to rise to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in District 31-6A.
Facing a wounded North club minus a number of starters, the SaberCats went to work and demolished the foe, gaining 546 total yards and allowing 189: 77 of it on a final drive in which the Coogs pushed into the end zone to avoid the ziggy. Everyone knew it was going to be tough, a potential mismatch, and it turned out to be that.
However, North (0-1, 0-5) started the night with rushing success, especially from Jacob Peralez, who hammered for 96 yards on 24 carries. The Coogs just made too many mistakes, and against the Valley’s No. 1 team, that ain’t gonna work.
The biggest gaffe came in the first period, with the Sabes ahead 7-0 after a TD pass from A.J. Sotelo to Daniel Enriquez. Vela drove to the North 34 before a pair of illegal-motion calls stalled the effort. On a strangely quiet night – band-less, it may be noted, as the inclement weather put the ixnay on music – the Coogs then fumbled the punt at their own 1, and were soon down 14 at 4:15 of the first after a 1-yard Cristian Flores scoot.
Sotelo was simply masterful in the half, throwing for 292 yards and four touchdowns, hitting Enriquez again on a 24-yard strike near the end of the quarter, and later adding scoring tosses to Ozzie Garcia and Justin Cantu for an insurmountable 35-0 lead at the break.
Meanwhile, Flores raced for 111 yards on just 11 carries against his former school, and he has never looked so quick and graceful with the football. The lean senior also turned in the block of the game, a crushing blow that was heard throughout the stadium on Aaron Alvarez’ 34-yard six-point rumble early in the third period. The other offensive highlight came from junior Kevin McKinney, who busted loose for a 62-yard run to the house to go with a pair of excellent special-teams tackles.
The Coogs put together a 17-play, 77-yard drive in the late stretches, connecting on a 5-yard TD pass to Brandon Borrego to avoid the shutout.
North did not attempt to throw the ball with any frequency, tossing just eight aerials, and the Vela defense, minus Ian Ochoa and Jaime Garcia Jr., had little issue on the night. It got seven tackles from safety Ivan Mendoza and six from linebacker Luis Gutierrez. Tackle Brandon Beebe turned in a couple of tackles-for-loss and safety Frankie Zuniga – like Flores working against his former mates – collected six tackles and continued to be a presence on the blitz. On a night when the second unit earned considerable minutes playing time, Jonathan Navarro stood out with six stops.
Juan Rodriguez and Ivan Garza enjoyed reasonably solid nights for the North D but with Enriquez (eight catches for 128 yards despite a pair of uncharacteristic drops) and Sotelo operating almost at will, there was little doubt of the outcome after a quarter.
Now the Sabes look to a match Friday at home against Econ, which was stomped 44-0 by Weslaco in its latest outing. North has now scored just 45 points in five games and points to a road tilt against similarly winless Donna North, Friday. DE Humberto Martinez and WR Roel de Leon missed the Vela game with injuries, and those two are definitely needed if the Coogs want to get back on track for 2018.