Lions survive thriller with Tigers

La Feria receiver Chris Diaz (2) follows lead blocker Avishai Dickerson (28) upfield, pursued by Mercedes linebacker Desi Rodriguez (34) during the first quarter of non-district game against Mercedes on Friday night at La Feria High School. The Lions defeated the Tigers 35-31. By Stefan Modrich, Valley Morning Star

LA FERIA — La Feria’s first real test of its 2019 season came under an appropriate backdrop, a September sky featuring a moon that, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, was about 99.9 percent full at sundown on Friday the 13th.

The Lions (3-0) prevailed 35-31 in a come-from-behind thriller over Mercedes in front of a packed house at Lion Stadium, a contest which marked the first time La Feria trailed at home this season and the first time this year that the Lions trailed in the second half of a game.

Leading 28-24 with 1:40 to play in the fourth quarter, Mercedes defensive back Ramiro Ortiz intercepted a pass from La Feria quarterback Dorian Hernandez, and Ortiz returned it 52-yards for a touchdown that put the visitors ahead 31-28.

Less than 20 seconds later, Hernandez (four touchdowns and two interceptions) delivered a 45-yard strike to Caleb Flores and then delivered the game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass to a heavily covered Aaron Trevino.

That left 1:19 for new Tigers quarterback Horacio Pequeno to engineer a go-ahead drive of his own. While the La Feria defense bent, it did not break. With 12 seconds remaining, safety Jaden Torres intercepted a Pequeno pass along the same sideline Ortiz made his game-changing play minutes prior to clinch the victory for the Lions.

The Tigers (1-2) struck first Friday night, when sophomore quarterback Michael Cisneros found wide receiver Josiah Cantu for a 40-yard touchdown at the 10:19 mark of the first quarter.

La Feria answered with a long drive in which Hernandez connected three times with Dario Sanchez, the last of which was a 23-yard touchdown that evened the game at 7 with 3:16 to play in the first quarter.

Following a fumble recovery and a 25-yard burst by running back Avishai Dickerson, the Lions took their first lead of the evening when Hernandez fired a dart on an inside slant to Dereck Perez on fourth-and-goal from the 3 for a go-ahead score with 11:26 to go in the second quarter.

The Lions led 14-10 at halftime. A 57-yard touchdown reception and a corresponding successful 2-point conversion attempt from Cantu on a reverse sparked Mercedes’ late push, which brought the Tigers to within four points of the home team with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Hernandez opened the scoring for La Feria in the second half with a 6-yard rushing touchdown at the 5:29 mark of the third quarter.

Dickerson’s 8-yard touchdown run with 10:24 to play in the fourth quarter gave La Feria its largest lead of the evening at 28-16.

Evan Avila also had an interception on a throw by Mercedes starting quarterback Michael Cisneros during the second quarter. Hernandez’s first interception came a few plays later to Jarred Rincon, who returned it 39 yards.

Mercedes kicker Rodrigo Martinez was good on each of his three field goal attempts on the night, which were from 15, 32 and 36 yards respectively.

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.