'CATS SUFFER FIRST LOSS OF 2018

Now this was a total Throwback Thursday with two hard-headed teams slamming into one another for four quarters, and only three passes completed all night. The old-fashioned slugfest between EHS and visiting Weslaco East was in the books in near-record time, the Wildcats rising to 2-0 in District 31-6A, the Bobcats falling to 0-1 in their opener following the bye.

Minus starting quarterback Matt Cruz, out with a knee injury, the makeshift Bobcat offense managed a season-low 111 yards and was shut out for the first time all season, 21-0. Hearlin Benavides ran for 71 yards on 18 painful carries against a very aggressive and quick East D, while Erik Cano tried just four balls, completing two.

One of the other passes was a problem, as East intercepted and ran it back 90 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to break a scoreless tie.

The Wildcats came out in the Wildcat for the second half and controlled the action as a valiant EHS defense tried to hold on. The Bobcats ran just nine plays in the half to 34 for East and a defense that had played so well gave up two scores – both in the third period – for the final margin.

Early on, EHS held the Wildcats to a missed field goal and stopped two other drives; East started marches in Bobcat territory twice but it was all zeroes until the Pick Six. Nathan Ochoa had a monster game with 15 tackles for the ‘Cats and Athen Villanueva overcame periodic cramps to add 12 more. Mario Rodriguez was in on 11 hits as the D proved it belongs near the top of the league charts. That unit was up against the Valley’s biggest, strongest O-line and more than held its own, giving up just 208 total yards, only 40 in a grueling first half. But with the offense going nowhere, it was only a matter of time before fatigue set in.

“They really pounded it on us in the second half,” said Coach J.J. Leija, whose former coach Richard Flores was on hand Thursday to watch his old club, in the stadium that now bears his name. “They used their power game pretty well, it’s a team that has gone three-deep in the playoffs several times, and they played like it.”

Still, the coach was proud of the effort his kids made, against the odds.

“You can only do so much before the defense starts to wear down and that’s what happened in the second half,” Leija noted. “But our guys fought all the way, they kept fighting, and we were close to being scoreless at the half, before we gave them one.”

Leija said that the East game was just the first step on the road to the rest of the season, noting that the next two games – against city rivals North and Econ – are going to be crucial for his team.

The ‘Cats have won the last two battles with North, 30-14 last year and 28-21 in 2016, but are still on the short end of the rivalry as the Coogs hold a 15-8-2 edge. By the way, the Coogs clobbered Donna North on the road Friday to get into the win column for the first time. Sophomore QB Michael Rodriguez once again provided a spark with his quick feet.

NOTES: The Bobcats had scored a healthy 145 points in four games heading in and had allowed 64. Their defensive yield of 218 yards Thursday was second best in 2018, behind the 186 surrendered at Rivera. But for the first time this season, the unit had no takeaways.

The defensive line pair of Emmanuel Duron and Diego Flores combined for 14 tackles against East and corner Antoine Woodard came up for seven, including some pretty loud smacks.