Kats hold off St. Joseph Academy 17-12 to improve to 4-0

BY CLAIRE CRUZ |

RAYMONDVILLE — An ice water bath may not be the ideal birthday gift for everyone, but it was a good one for Raymondville head coach Frank Cantu.

His Bearkats defeated Brownsville St. Joseph 17-12 on Friday night in the Valley Morning Star’s Game of the Week to improve to 4-0 and give him another reason to celebrate.

“I’m just so proud of these boys and the way they came together,” Cantu said. “It was a total team effort. We’ve seen film on these guys, in seconds they can score. Our game plan was bend but don’t break, and at the end we were able to execute that.”

Both teams committed turnovers on their respective opening drives, but only Raymondville capitalized on the opportunity.

Following an interception by junior Marcus Capetillo, the Bearkats put together a seven-minute scoring drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Daniel Gutierrez to senior receiver Justin Noyola.

The Bloodhounds answered in the second quarter when senior quarterback Kai Money hit senior receiver Andres Martinez for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed, giving Raymondville a slim lead.

But the Bearkats quickly increased their cushion, scoring on a touchdown run by Gutierrez and then an impressive 52-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Saul Garcia just before halftime.

“He’s amazing,” Cantu said of Garcia. “That had more on it, too. He’s only a sophomore and he’s doing a great job for us.”

With Raymondville riding a lot of momentum, St. Joseph made crucial adjustments in the locker room to try and turn the tide. Head coach Tino Villarreal said the Bearkats were running a defense the Bloodhounds hadn’t seen before, so they focused on blocking assignments and taking advantage of any creases they saw.

The refined offensive plan led to a score early in the fourth quarter, but another failed two-point conversion kept the lead at five.

St. Joseph made defensive adjustments, too, and an increase in blitzes caused the Raymondville offense to sputter and it didn’t score the entire second half.

But turnovers once again proved to be St. Joseph’s downfall, and two fumble recoveries late in the fourth quarter by senior Darian Cortez and sophomore Thomas Zambrano sealed the victory for the Bearkats.

“This is not the first game that we have turnovers… I have to do a better job of trying to correct that,” Villarreal said. “What I think has been our Achilles’ heel is two things we can control: hanging onto the football and the penalties. We can’t make mistakes and overcome good opponents.”