BY JON R. LaFOLLETE | STAFF WRITER
EDINBURG — By definition, it was a football game. Points were scored, collisions were had, “YMCA” was blared over the PA at halftime.
But Friday’s contest between Edcouch-Elsa and Edinburg North at Cats Stadium resembled something closer to a Jackson Pollack painting: abstract pieces which seldom connected or made sense when viewed as a whole. Credit mother nature’s steady downpour for making things muddier.
“It was pretty ugly out there,” E-E running back Tey Valdez said. “It was slippery. Guys were sliding around a lot.”
Regardless, a win is a win and Yellowjackets coach Joe Marichalar will take his team’s 35-12 victory come hell or high water.
“When you have weather like this, you just hope that the kids play,” Marichalar said. “It all comes back to fundamentals. You have to hand the ball off well, make sure you’ve got two hands on it. Little stuff like that is what’s going to help you win ball games like tonight.”
The little stuff was hard to come by throughout the night for both teams. By the time E-E ran the clock out to improve their record to 2-1, the ‘Jackets and Cougars combined for nine turnovers compared to seven touchdowns.
“I told the guys, ‘Let’s go out and find our identity,” Marichalar said. “‘No matter what the conditions are, let’s go out there and put on a good show.’”
E-E did just that from the get-go, demonstrating their newly-installed aerial attack when quarterback MarcoAguinaga found Valdez as lonesome as a forsaken prom date behind the Cougars defense, going 77 yards in 10 seconds to take a 7-0 lead.
After a 3-and-out from Edinburg North, Edcouch scored once more, going 63 yards in five plays with Valdez taking it in from eight yards out on a sweep. 14-0 Jackets with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
“There was hardly any rain in the first part of the game,” Marichalar said. “So we wanted to take advantage of that as much as we could.”
On Edcouch’s ensuing drive, however, Aguinaga left the game with an injury to his left hand and would not return. From there, the ‘Jackets offense struggled to muster consistency. In four possessions spanning the rest of the first half, backup quarterback Moises Gomez threw a pair of interceptions, and the team punted twice. E-E’s only second-quarter score came when senior cornerback Noe Rodriguez intercepted North QB Cristian Espinoza, returning it 50 yards to put his team up 21-6.
“We had seen that play a lot on film,” Rodriguez said. “I just recognized it quick and reacted.”
But as Aguinaga iced his ailing appendage on the soggy sidelines, Valdez was a ray of sunshine. In the second half, he was the driving force for the ‘Jackets, running for more than 70 yards, and throwing a 27-yard touchdown to Adrian Rodriguez to ice the game with 8:45 left in the final quarter.
“Our offensive line did really well tonight,” Valdez said. “I give all the credit to them. We just picked up things we learned from last week, and just came as a team.”
The Cougars (1-2) were flat for much of the night. Quarterback Cristian Espinoza finished 7-of-28 for 95 yards and three interceptions. North’s ground attack was nonexistent and their defense couldn’t get stops on a routine basis. Coach Rene Saenz put the blame on himself.
“As a coach, it’s my job to get these kids ready,” he said. “And obviously I didn’t do my job. I didnt’ do what I was supposed to do. We’re looking for consistency. Last year was an up-and-down year for us. We can’t keep playing like that to get to where we want to be.
Aside from Aguinaga, North’s Balde Hinojosa left the game with a right leg injury during the fourth quarter.Hinojosa was assisted off the field and did not put any weight on the leg. E-E receiver Andrew Segura missed the game with a left shoulder injury.
The Yellowjackets have a bye next week before the start of District 32-5A competition. The Cougars travel to McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 19 to play the McAllen Memorial Mustangs (2-0). Saenz is sardonic, if accurate, when stating his team’s goals if they wish to win.
“We have to stop the run, right? That’s what everyone says they have to do.”