For 78 minutes Friday it appeared that minus the sublime Jonathan Segundo, the Jags might just bite the dust for only the second time in seven district outings. Even the vaunted Iceland/Viking chant that has made pregame preparations more exciting was not working against a Vela side playing at home and doing it pretty well.
But just when all was bleak for the Orange, the magic arrived with two late goals in the space of three minutes, sending the SaberCats reeling with their sixth straight defeat.
Up 1-0 and trying to stave off a late Jag rally, the Sabes ran afoul of the elusive mystery that is Mario Ferrer, and then were laid low by excellence in combo from Kevin Mendez and Frankie Valadez.
Ferrer had spent much of the evening getting knocked around by the physical Vela D paced by banger Alexis Ayala; without the injured Segundo (also has card issues), Ferrer had to carry much of the offensive load. Following a number of fruitless forays in the attacking third, the lanky veteran finally found the mark, connecting at 12:30 of the second half to level the match. At 9:27 the bespectacled Mendez worked wonders in the left corner, using fancy footwork and feints to get off a soaring center that Valadez ran onto and slotted for the go-ahead goal.
Just like that, a night of improved play from Vela went for naught, and the Jags had survived to stay close to the top of the standings. They had been beaten by Southwest in PKs Tuesday and looked like a disjointed squad during a first half that the Sabes more or less dominated with energetic activity. But in the second stanza, with their fans raising havoc and Segundo stalking the sidelines prepping for possible future coaching duties, the Jags came on, getting a number of tries before the bang-bang at the close helped them end the first half of District 31-6A action in good shape.
The Sabes meanwhile, must take solace in their 80-minute stretch of play, kicked off early on with a terrific backside blast by Osny Vargas that came just 10 minutes in, off a corner. It was a sound effort all-around, from the athleticism of Jake Barnett in front to the booming free kicks by Austin Garza. But when they had the chance to extend a surprising advantage, Coach Fred Garza’s crew could not get there.
LADY SABES ROLL
In the girls’ match at Vela Friday, the Lady SaberCats had little issue with an Econ club that has struggled with injuries, winning 5-0 behind a four-goal masterpiece from the speedy little senior, Ayssa Arevalo.
Coach Robert Garcia’s Lady Jags dropped to 3-4 in league (nine points) with several starters not available, and on a rugged night of futbol nearly ended up without the requisite 11 to fill the pitch. No fewer than five Lady Jags went down at one time or another, and with only three subs on the bench, it was a long slog for the visitor. Not even an appearance from former program legend Krysta Armstrong could make it more manageable for the wounded warriors from the east.
Vela exploded for three goals in the first 12 minutes Friday, with Arevalo zooming under a thru ball left and easing it past the keeper, back post at 37:52. Seven minutes on, Odi Leal slammed one in and at 28:42, Leal’s exquisite cross found the head of Arevalo, who notched the goal from in between two Econ defenders.
At that point, the Lady Jags regrouped and started to lay some licks, keeping Vela off the board for the duration of the half. Laura Ruiz, who had a strong effort Friday, nearly bombed one in midway home, but for the night, Lady Sabers keeper Ashley de la Cruz achieved the clean sheet with a couple of saves on essentially a quiet night netward.
Coach Americo Cortez now has his group playing at a high level heading into a city brawl Tuesday at home against North. With a 5-2 mark good for 16 points, the Lady Sabes are set to try and pass the Lady Cougars, who stumbled Friday against P-SJ-A for their first setback of the 31-6A run. At 6-1 (16 points), North has to reset for this all-important clash. Vela’s only drawback right now is an injury to Arevalo that sent the fleet flier off on the dreaded cart late in the night Friday.
In other action to end the week, EHS blasted Pharr North, 4-1, as the Bobcats improved to 4-3 (12) in preps for a trip to Econ Tuesday. Southwest 7-0 (19) leads the loop with the Jags second (6-2, 18) by a nose.
On the girls’ side, Memorial has 18 points after a victory against Southwest Friday, two ticks away from both Vela and North.