Folks will say that scrimmages don’t mean much, they’re just to get warmed up for the regular season. And they’ll be right, to a point. Depends on how one watches them; for instance, it’s not really the final score, because you got the No 1’s and No. 2’s and beyond, making it hard to tell who scored against whom. What is important is how the kids respond to what happens, and that is one of the main reasons that scrimmages are valuable.
Case in point, Econ’s work at home Friday against a mammoth Brownsville Pace contingent. The Jags gave up two touchdown passes in the first part of the drill, and failed twice inside the 5-yard line against the Vikings defense.
But instead of carping, hanging their heads, or showing a lack of confidence, the Orange went to work in the live portion, battling to a 10-10 tie against a club expected to compete for a playoff spot down in 5A. It was a solid effort, especially on defense, for a team that went 4-6 last year and starts the 2018 campaign Thursday against P-SJ-A Southwest.
The Jags had a hard time running the ball early on, producing a trio of three-and-outs while falling behind, two scores nil; one of the passes came against the second unit. Gradually, though, the Econ line started make holes for a number of new faces in the backfield. Coach Gabe Pena has a series of hopefuls auditioning right now, including bangers Andrew Gomez and Mario Reyna and shifty P.J. Soto and Orlando Espinoza.
All those prospects watched as Jeremy Fernandez gave the team life with a scintillating 70-yard touchdown run to break the offensive drought. The stocky little senior got loose off left tackle and threaded his way to the sideline, turning on the jets to complete an untouched boogie to the end zone.
A series earlier, the defense had saved the day on a great tackle-for-loss from Abel Moreno on a fourth-and-goal Pace attempt. Moreno had a terrific night, also adding a nice run from scrimmage, and defensive mate Rolando Alviso showed his versatility with a 23-yard reception to go with the hardest hit of the night, a resounding wallop delivered against a Viking back.
The mantra is “double duty” this season for the depth-less Jags, and kids such as Moreno and Alviso will get plenty of chances to stay on the field for the duration; they are both top-notch playmakers.
As the live portion continued, Econ made another excellent defensive stand. After Pace drove to three first downs, linebackers Juan Contreras and Daniel Romo combined on a crunching third-down hit to force a Pace field goal try. Though established starters Alviso and rangy Marco Plata are ensconced at LB, Contreras and Romo will get their Wrecking Crew minutes.
The Vikes later connected on a 50-yard TD pass against a refurbished Jag secondary that is still feeling its way, but then a leaping interception by Moreno got the ball rolling the other way. Gomez, who reminds one of former Econ legend Bubba Villarreal with his hard-running style, barreled for 13 yards and Albert Guerra hit Alviso for 23, after the former scrambled past the line but reversed field to get legal and find the open man. The Jags bogged down after a first-and-goal at the Pace 2, but made a field goal in the final minute of play to clinch the tie.
It was a nice night to see how the group could handle adversity. The Jags started poorly but gained steam, never blinking an eye at the misfortunes of the early going, and finding ways to make plays ands leap back into the driver’s seat. The offensive line, with David Arcos, Louie Rodriguez, Hector Tamez, and tough junior Ruben Reyes, among others, learned what needs to be done to open holes.
The defense held its own behind Alviso and Plata, with Moreno illustrating that he is all the way back from surgery. The long-range potential of Fernandez, plus the bevy of new backs, will be more than able to take advantage one suspects, giving Pena and Co. the sense that if they stay healthy, they’ll be a factor in the 31-6A race.