WESLACO – Coach Luis Cardenas got to see what his EHS team can do without the big horse in the middle, at least for a half here Tuesday. Emmanuel Duron, the junior smasher, was competing in the district wrestling tournament while his teammates grappled with East, and though Big No. 15 ambled in near the end of the first half – a mat title in tow, by the way – the other Bobcats had already shown that they can hold their own pretty well.
East had startled the charts in the league opener with a 1-0 victory on the road at highly-touted Donna North while this was the EHS opener, so Cardenas had to go to war without the main warrior. Duron or not, the coach was looking for more consistency from his crew.
“Sometimes we play well and other times, not,” he said. “I guess that’s always the way it is in high school, you never really know what you are going to get. When they are ready, when they bring it, they can be really good.”
What he got in the first half was promising as veteran presence David Mexicano (still one of the best names in the league) helped control the match with excellent feel and quick bursts of speed. In the back, another experienced hand, Melvin Vidal, had a tremendous match, sliding all over the field to parry East shots, break up chances, and clear with force and accuracy. Vidal is particularly adept at the touchline slide, deflecting the ball off man for a Bobcat throw. Along with Vidal in the defensive line was hustling left-back Humberto Martinez, who plays well in the air despite a lack of height, and can ferry the ball forward easily. The new face on D is Max Zapata, a sturdy fellow who showed some calm passing skills out of the back.
Upfront lurked the tricky Pablo Picazo, who can make something out of nothing with the sleight of hand of an artistically inclined footballer. In the attack, both Jesus “Chino” Garza and Jesse Abrego exhibited promise on the ball while winger Cristian Perez is a tough little cat with some wheels.
The Bobcats are auditioning two keepers to replace the graduated regular Jonathan Che, with junior Donovan Luebano and freshman Abdiel Garza splitting the duties Tuesday; Luebano is more physically imposing while Garza is lithe and quick.
Cardenas has liked the looks of a pair of freshmen, Dilon Cazares and Ethan Garcia, and both made some noise against East. Cazares has skills, and he got some good looks at the target Tuesday, while Garcia pushed across the equalizer in the second half when he popped one to the box and benefited from a drastic keeper/defender error to see his attempt find the back of the net with little more than 10 minutes to play.
It came down to penalties, a marathon affair, the teams completing a rarity by converting eight shots apiece until Garza stopped an East try to claim two points of three for his side. In limited time, Duron had made his mark, as always, with gargantuan free/goal kicks and some deft ball-handling belying his 222 pounds of muscle. The rest of the gang, as stated, did just fine, and carved out the PK victory, and as the Bobcats looked to Friday’s clash with North, they know that they can hang, even without El Senor del Pueblo menacing opposing attackers in the final third.
NOTES: Vela got a strong victory at home Friday, beating Weslaco 4-1, while Econ was slapped down by Donna North, 4-1. The Bobcats meanwhile went to penalties again Friday, dropping the extra session to North.