By CLAIRE CRUZ, Special to the Star
There’s no love lost between Willacy County neighbors Lyford and Raymondville, a fact that was evident Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
Both teams were heavily penalized throughout the contest and each had a player ejected. But in the end, this edition of the Cotton Bowl was all about the Bearkats as they ran away with a dominant 42-0 win, their third straight in the rivalry.
“Emotions were high on both sides. Some stuff went on that I don’t like, and we’re not that team,” Raymondville coach Frank Cantu said. “Once we settled down we executed well, and at the end of the day we did enough.”
The Bearkats started the first quarter with a long, time-consuming drive but didn’t find the end zone as senior kicker Saul Garcia missed a 44-yard field goal. Three plays into Lyford’s opening drive, a fight broke out that resulted in multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the first of two ejections.
Lyford junior running back Devon Mendoza fumbled later in the drive, and the Bearkats promptly capitalized on the mistake with a 45-yard touchdown run by senior running back Justin Cantu during the final seconds of the first quarter.
That score was just the start for the relentless, two-headed monster that is the Raymondville run game. Cantu found the end zone again during the second quarter on a 69-yard rush, and his counterpart, junior ZaRaivion Armendarez, followed suit with touchdowns from 28, 32 and 12 yards out.
Lyford struggled to tackle the elusive speedsters, who had plenty of big running lanes thanks to the solid Raymondville offensive line.
“This means a lot to the community, and I’m glad we came out with the win,” Armendarez said. “We had a good game. The offensive line blocked well, they opened up the holes, and so did the receivers. Each week we just want to get better.”
Junior quarterback Jarod Cavazos added a 6-yard passing score to the mix by finding big sophomore Jayson Cantu for Raymondville’s fourth touchdown of the first half.
Not to be outdone, the Bearkats’ defense recorded two interceptions and several sacks. The defensive line kept the Bulldogs out of rhythm all night and delivered some hard hits along the way.
Though few and far between, Lyford did have some positive flashes. Freshman Oscar Martinez and Mendoza each intercepted Cavazos, and freshman backup quarterback Osmar Martinez made some big plays with his legs.
“By no means is it an excuse, but we’re on our fourth quarterback and he stepped up and gave us a spark in the second half,” Lyford coach Israel Gonzalez said. “We came out on the short end of it, but that’s football. We teach our kids to fight through adversity. That’s what we’re about.”