Tarpons’ defense shines in scrimmage with Pace

PORT ISABEL — Adrian Nino’s patience bore fruit for the Port Isabel Tarpons during their first scrimmage as he delivered the game-tying touchdown late in a 6-6 tie with Pace on Friday night at Tarpon Stadium.

The teams alternated 10-play drives on offense and defense before simulating game action by playing one 12-minute quarter.

Nino had what would have been a game-tying 30-yard touchdown run erased at the 2:40 mark of the scrimmage due to a holding call.

“This was a good performance tonight against a 5A team,” Port Isabel coach Jason Strunk said. “The thing I was most impressed by was our defense. … That’s the mark of a championship football team. We know it’s the first scrimmage, but those are the things we want to see.”

The Vikings’ defense held firm on the penultimate Port Isabel possession that looked to be enough to give Pace the 6-0 win, but the Tarpons forced a fumble, recovered by Michael Perez with 1:05 to play.

Junior quarterback No. 6 Joey Krieghbaum marched Port Isabel down the field after the turnover to set up Nino for the score.

Strunk was impressed by Krieghbaum’s poise in orchestrating the scrimmage’s final drive, but he wasn’t pleased with the team’s discipline offensively, as the Tarpons racked up 12 penalties.

“We’re working on some new positions, having a new starting quarterback on varsity,” Strunk said. “We’re searching for some running back help, and it’s a work in progress right now.”

Nonetheless, Port Isabel’s strong running game found the holes in a porous Pace front seven, exploding for several plays that went for a gain of at least 50 yards.

For Pace, quarterback Jose Banda went deep often and had a strong showing, connecting for one touchdown pass and several other long passes with multiple Vikings receivers.

On the defensive side of the ball, Strunk said safety Jake Pinkerton and inside linebacker Zaid Calderon were standouts for the Tarpons.

“It was a good night all the way around,” Strunk said. “We’ll take that effort, from our defense especially.”

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.