By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
RIO HONDO – Last week was nice, but last week is over.
It’s all about the here and now for the Rio Hondo Bobcats. And it’s another stiff test on the horizon.
Fresh off their gritty 21-14 win over previously-unbeaten Port Isabel last week, the Bobcats (6-1 overall, 2-0 District 16-4A Division-II) will battle for first place on Friday night when they host Orange Grove in a huge contest at Bobcat Stadium.
The Bulldogs (6-1, 2-0) come to town after exterminating Progreso 61-0 last week. They also have a district win over Raymondville (41-23) to their credit. Their only loss was in non-district to Rockport-Fulton (28-20).
Orange Grove is again paced by junior quarterback Hondo Harris, who’s passed for more than 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns (stats not including the Progreso game). Harris, who started as a sophomore last year as well, is mobile and is a tremendous passer. His targets include senior WR Christian Webb, who had 27 catches for 548 yards and 6 TDs in six games. Drake Osborn (20-222, 2 TDs) and Chris Lauer (17-327) are also viable options to catch passes from Harris.
Though Coach Jerry Bomar’s offense is predicated on the pass, the Bulldogs will run, too. Alex Acuna has over 350 yards and is their leading rusher, though Harris (200-plus yards) will also tuck and run with no problem for a unit which averages well over 400 yards per contest.
Good thing the Bobcats can play defense.
Rio Hondo has hung its hat on its stoppers all season long. The Bobcats defense has forced 23 turnovers, registered 38 sacks, and allows just 12.6 points per game.
Defensive end Albert Magallanes (48 total tackles, 11 sacks) has been an absolute terror most of the season. Magallanes recovered a late fumble vs. the Tarpons to help the Cats set up their game-winning drive. Also, LB Daniel Flores (66 total tackles, 3 sacks) and Joey Guzman (66 total tackles) have been a force for a stingy defense.
Also, Rio Hondo’s offense has playmakers for a unit which nets 363 yards per outing. RB Marco Garate (912 yards, 8 TDs) ran extremely tough at PI while QBs Eli Pitones and Josh Gonzalez have combined for almost 500 more yards rushing. Senior wide receiver Derek Salazar (16 receptions, 285 yards, 2 TDs) was a huge factor in the win over the Tarpons.
Meanwhile, Friday’s game is the second in a three-game stretch which many felt would define the Cats’ season. After the Grove, the Cats go to Raymondville for a pivotal matchup before closing against the Red Ants.
LOS FRESNOS at BROWNSVILLE RIVERA (SAT.)
With district wins over Lopez, Harlingen South and Harlingen, the Falcons sit a game back of first place San Benito.
With a date looming against Brownsville Veterans, the Falcons will look to take care of business at Rivera on Saturday night.
Los Fresnos got a huge win at home vs. Harlingen last week to complete the Harlingen sweep thanks to 400 yards on offense and a big game from QB Pierce Ruiz, who now has 674 yards and five TDs on the ground.
BROWNSVILLE VETS MEMORIAL at HARLINGEN
What amounts to almost a “must-win” of sorts for Harlingen will take place Friday at Boggus Stadium.
The Cardinals currently cling to a 2-2 mark in 32-6A, tied with Brownsville Rivera, a team the Cards took care of earlier this year. San Benito paces the field at 4-0 while Vets (3-1) and Los Fresnos (3-1) are close behind. Harlingen lost at Los Fresnos last week.
The Chargers put up almost 700 yards offensively in their 67-57 loss to San Benito last Saturday night. QB/RB Derrik Rodriguez went for 390 yards and five touchdowns in the loss.
Vets will look to tighten up a defense which allowed 883 yards to the Greyhounds last week.