LYFORD — Raymondville quarterback Daniel Gutierrez passed for 143 yards, rushed for another 126 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but he still managed to get overshadowed by his defense.
After giving up 182 offensive yards in the first half, the Bearkats’ stingy defense suffocated the Lyford offense and allowed just 39 total yards in the second half to come away with a 35-20 victory over the Bulldogs in a memorable Willacy County Cotton Bowl.
“In small communities like this you can have a really good year and always look back and regret that you were not able to pull this one off, but we didn’t want to get there,” said Raymondville head coach Frank Cantu. “We feel that we are going to have a great year, but we couldn’t get there without looking back and knowing we didn’t get this one.
“It’s very fulfilling, but I’m glad it’s over and I am ready to move on. But give Lyford credit for a phenomenal game.”
With the victory, Raymondville improved to 3-0 heading into next week’s game against Brownsville St. Joseph.
Lyford, on the other hand, fell to 1-2 on the season as they hit the road to Grulla next Friday.
Despite the loss, it was Lyford that struck early after the Bulldogs’ Javier Gonzalez punched in the game’s first touchdown from 5 yards out with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
However, on the next possession Raymondville responded as Jacob Posas scored on a 6-yard run to put the Bearkats up 7-6 just before the end of the first period.
Just as Raymondville began to take control of the game, a big defensive play by Lyford’s Justin Garcia saw the big man strip the ball and take it 80 yards in the other direction only to be brought down 3 yards shy of the touchdown.
Three plays later Lyford quarterback Chase Hinojosa found Chris Gonzalez in the end zone to take a 20-14 lead.
With momentum running high in Lyford’s favor, the Bulldogs pulled down an interception inside Bearkat territory. However, Raymondville’s defense was up for the test and stopped Lyford’s offense in the red zone.
“I told them it was going to come to heart,” said Cantu. “But we have been here before. We were in a close game against La Feria and we were tired, wounded and hurt at the half, but we came out and we just sucked it up.”