PORT ISABEL — Patience has been the most underrated virtue of the La Feria offense in its dominant start to the 2019 season.
La Feria’s moxie was on display again in a 47-7 win over Port Isabel on Saturday night at Tarpon Stadium, as senior quarterback Dorian Hernandez ran for two touchdowns and threw for five scores in the rout.
The Lions (4-0) punted twice on their first two possessions of the game, giving the Tarpons great starting field position.
“We haven’t started as fast as we’ve wanted to,” La Feria coach Oscar Salinas said. “After that, we kind of get ourselves going. But we are struggling a little bit in our first possession a little bit. But once we get going, and we figure out the (defensive) fronts, that’s what our spread (offense) is about, recognizing what they’re going to give us.”
Salinas said that another key aspect of the offense’s success under Hernandez is his ability to react and adjust to schemes of opposing defenses, especially when they show him a look that he and the La Feria coaches may not have expected.
Port Isabel squandered its quality chances from the outset of Friday night’s contest. The Tarpons began their first drives on their own 44-yard line and own 45-yard line.
Junior quarterback Joey Kreighbaum and senior wide receiver/running back Mac Strunk formed an effective rushing tandem, but failed to get any closer than field-goal range.
The Lions also shut down Port Isabel star running back Brayan Medina. The senior’s touches were limited, as was his overall impact once the stout La Feria defense rendered the run-dependent Port Isabel attack one-dimensional.
“That was the game plan tonight,” Salinas said. “We knew we had to stop No. 25. He’s been a threat, he’s a great athlete and a great running back as well. We tried to neutralize him as best as we could, and that was our game plan, to let the rest of them make plays if they could.”
The real trouble for the Tarpons began after Hernandez opened the scoring with a 19-yard rushing touchdown with 1:16 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, La Feria senior defensive end Eliseo Cruz recovered a fumble. Port Isabel was penalized for an illegal wedge formation on the play, which allowed the Lions to start inside the Tarpons’ 20-yard line. Moments later, Hernandez rushed for a 3-yard touchdown as the clock ran out on the first quarter.
With 5:36 remaining in the second quarter, La Feria running back Chris Diaz outraced the Port Isabel defense to etch his name into the scoresheet with an 80-yard touchdown run. Hernandez also found Dereck Perez for a 48-yard touchdown pass to widen the margin to 34-0 with 34 seconds to play in the first half
Diaz’s 30-yard punt return set up the first of two touchdown connections between Hernandez and tight end Caleb Flores. The first was a 16-yarder that made it 27-0 with 3:35 to play in the second quarter, and the second, a 40-yarder, made it 41-0 in favor of La Feria with 2:09 to play in the third quarter.
Salinas said the timing between Hernandez and his top targets has been a process of continuous improvement atop a foundation of already solid chemistry.
“They’ve been working together for a while, and you can tell by the timing,” Salinas said. “They know where they need to go when (Hernandez) scrambles. Right now we’re playing really well, and we just need to keep getting better from there.”
Port Isabel linebacker/backup quarterback Zaid Calderon got the Tarpons on the board with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Michael Perez with 1:58 to go in the third quarter.
The Lions retained their 40-point advantage when Hernandez linked with Diaz again for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 9:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
La Feria next plays Brownsville Rivera at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Sams Memorial Stadium in Brownsville, and Port Isabel will play host to Brownsville St. Joseph, at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.