BY ARMANDO GARZA |
SAN BENITO — With an 18-7 halftime lead over Weslaco East thanks to salty defense and a quick-strike offense, everything was going according to plan for No. 1 San Benito on Friday night.
However, after the break, it was the Wildcats who got their way, forcing a turnover and chewing up yards — along with the game clock — in the process.
The difference for the ‘Hounds? Big stops, and big plays…AKA the stuff good teams come up with at crucial moments.
Marcelino Morales’ 50-yard touchdown gallop early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the ‘Hounds’ 25-19 win over Weslaco East in the Valley Morning Star’s Game of the Week at Bobby Morrow Stadium.
A week after a huge win at Los Fresnos, San Benito (5-0 overall, 2-0 District 32-6A) stayed perfect on the season by making itself at home in the Wildcats’ backfield for most of the night, save for two big plays from East (3-2, 1-1).
“We knew it was gonna be a physical ballgame and our defense did a good job tonight. That’s a good football team over there,” San Benito head coach Dan Gomez said. “Sometimes when you play you’re doing things right and then we’ll miss one (big play), and that’s gonna happen. But our coaching staff and our players had a better week of practice and it showed.”
For East coach Mike Burget, it was a tale of “what could have been” one week after an emotional win over rival Weslaco High. On Friday, the Wildcats started sluggishly to open the game, a lot due to San Benito’s defense, and got going too late, the veteran coach said.
“My hat’s off to San Benito. Anytime you come to play San Benito, one of the favorites in our district, a one-high school town… They threw bodies at us and wore us out in the first half,” Burget said. “But I thought we came back and wore them out in the second half. The kids showed a lot of heart, but we can’t wait until the second half to decide to play football.”
In front of another sold-out crowd, the ’Hounds got an early field goal and a 14-yard Erick Retta-to-Isaiah Trevino TD pass and a two-point pass to go up 11-0 with 5:31 left in the first quarter.
However, later in the second after an interception grab by Jesus Infante, the Wildcats finally got on the board with a 2-yard scoring plunge by Joshua Pedraza to close the deficit to 11-7 with 4:45 to go before half. But that’s when San Benito answered with a solid, nine-play, 63-yard drive capped by Retta finding Jesse Pena in stride on a pretty 16-yard score with 42 ticks left.
After the half, East showed its strong side. The Wildcats kept the ball for 9 minutes, 20 seconds of the third quarter on two lengthy marches. The first produced zero points, but Ryan Rodriguez’s pickoff of Retta on San Benito’s only drive of the quarter gave them another crack. J.C. Vargas made it count big time as he broke loose for a 56-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 18-13 with 11:11 left in the game.
That set up the guy they call “Mars.”
Morales’ out-of-this-world run came at an opportune time with 10:11 left. After the insurance score, San Benito’s stoppers forced a three-and-out, but East’s Freddy Gonzales busted a 53-yard score of his own with six minutes to go as things tensed up somewhat. A couple of key first downs put the game on ice for San Benito thereafter.