By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
But on Friday night against a tough Los Fresnos squad, the ’Hounds provided an answer loud and clear: This isn’t the Greyhound team of years past.
San Benito fought hard all night long and Alejandro Lugo’s 27-yard field goal proved to be the eventual game-winner as the ’Hounds held off the Falcons 17-14 in a thriller at Bobby Morrow Stadium.
With the win, the ’Hounds (3-2 overall, 2-0 District 32-6A) stay atop the league standings with Harlingen as the two square off next week in the 85th Battle of the Arroyo. Los Fresnos (3-2, 1-1), which had run wild in its three wins by way of a punishing ground game, sits a game back.
“Our defensive coaches did a helluva job all week long putting together a scheme and the kids executed it,” San Benito head coach Dan Gomez said. “Our kids are resilient and we’ve known that all season. They’ll fight to the end. We knew that if we had an opportunity at the end of the game, our chances to win would be high.”
The win didn’t come easy as the ’Hounds surged out to a lead and then held off an admirable Los Fresnos effort. It was a signature game for senior quarterback Cristian Sierra, who toughed out 101 yards rushing to go with 163 through the air. Wideout Victor Gaitan was his main target as he hauled in five passes for 102 of those yards.
“We’ve been working hard all week. We saw they (Falcons) were coming back after we let them get that first touchdown. They came back with the momentum; they’re a good team. But we’re a good team, also. I just talked to everybody in the locker room and told them to keep playing War Dog football and we’d win.”
San Benito (3-2 overall, 2-0 District 32-6A) got on the board first, scoring on its first two drives as the offense was in total sync. Sierra captained the ’Hounds on a 75-yard drive which ended with his one-yard TD, and then Armando Medrano took a reverse and sped for a 12-yard score to put the ’Hounds up 14-0 with 2:25 left in the opening quarter.
Los Fresnos appeared ready to claw back, but a 15-play march ended with a fumble inside the San Benito 20 yard-line early in the second. Then on their next possession, the Falcons missed a field goal to stay scoreless. All night, their running game which ran wild against Lopez last week was corralled by a strong San Benito effort.
It stayed that way until just over a minute left before half as the Falcons, who’d started slow in a couple of earlier games, found their rhythm. Near midfield, an interception by San Benito’s Juan Salas was wiped away by a penalty, giving the Falcons new life. Later, with seconds left before half, quarterback Pierce Ruiz heaved a pass into the end zone and found Miguel Garcia for a 35-yard touchdown with no time left on the clock to cut the deficit in half.
Late in the third, the Falcons’ Robert Lopez recovered a fumble near midfield and they’d make good on the turnover with a one-yard run from Eli Cruz. Martin Ornelas hit the PAT, knotting the score at 14 with 10:52 left in the game and sending the Falcon faithful into a frenzy.
The teams traded hard hits, punches and penalties before Lugo’s field goal to put the Greyhounds up by three with 2:05 to go in the game. On the drive, Sierra hit Gaitan for 29 yards, Javier Ortiz for 13 and ran for 18 more himself.
“I was real calm and focused on the drive. Just trying to help our team get down and score,” Sierra said. “We really wanted to score a touchdown, but we got that field goal which ended up winning the game.
With the ball and a timeout, Los Fresnos started at its own 13 and went backward to their 8. On 4th-and-15, Ruiz found Pete Perez for a 20-yard gain and first down, but the play was negated by an illegal man downfield penalty. The do-over fell incomplete, giving the game to San Benito as penalties (12 for 104 yards total) doomed the Falcons.
“Penalties made all the difference in the world,” Los Fresnos head coach Clint Finley said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and you can’t do that against a good football team. That’s a very talented football team (in San Benito).”