By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Tarpons got back to playing Tarpon football last Friday night at Rio Hondo. After a slow first half, in which the score was tied at seven most of the way, Port Isabel scored four touchdowns after intermission, while holding the Bobcats scoreless, and won the District 32-3A title, 36-7.
With the win, the Tarpons (3-1 district, 7-3 overall), clinch a playoff berth and a share of the district championship. Port Isabel came in tied with La Feria for first place in District 32-3A with a 2-1 record, with Rio Hondo and Hidalgo right behind, both with 1-1 district records. Hidalgo beat Progreso Friday night, 49-0. This Friday, Hidalgo will travel to La Feria and a win for either team will lift them into a tie with P.I. for the district title. Rio Hondo drops to 1-2, 5-4.
Rio Hondo got the ball first and scored on a 43-yard dash by Hernan Guerrero less than four minutes in. Port Isabel answered right back with a 24-yard Isaiah Martinez-Michael Curry touchdown pass at the 4:04 mark of the first quarter and the score was tied at seven.
The Tarpons twice held the Bobcats on downs and the two sides traded punts, the last of which gave Port Isabel the ball at their own 37-yard line with just over a minute left in the half. Five plays later, on second down at the Rio Hondo 34, Martinez hit Andrew Holland in stride as he ran into the end zone with one second showing on the clock. Marcelo Sanchez’s extra-point kick was good and the Tarpons led 14-7 at the break.
“That was huge,” Tarpons Head Coach Monty Stumbaugh said when it was all over. “(We got) the momentum going into the half. We drew that one up in the dirt.”
“That was a big catch,” Martinez said after the game. “I give him (Holland) credit and I have to thank my linemen for giving me time, and the running backs too.”
Another signature aspect of Tarpon football is the running game, and in the second half Port Isabel got it going full-speed. After a scoreless third quarter, Javier Vela went over from a yard out, ending a 10-play, 47-yard drive, and P.I. was up 21-7 with under 11 minutes to play.
Juan Aguilera broke up the middle like a cannon shot and streaked 51 yards to put the Tarpons up, 28-7. Jaime Gonzalez went 32 yards with 3:27 to go to close out the scoring, and that was a final, 36-7.
“In the first half, they did a great job on our running game,” Stumbaugh said on Saturday. “In the second half we were able to run the ball.”
Port Isabel rushed for 198 yards on the night. Juan Aguilera led the way with 82 yards (7.5 ave., 2 TD’s) and Jaime Gonzalez had 42 yards (10.5 ave., 1 TD).
The Tarpons got their passing game going again as well. After gaining a net total of less than 20 yards (two completions) through the air the last two games combined, quarterback Isaiah Martinez completed five of nine for a season-best 101 yards and two touchdowns.
“We knew we could throw the ball,” Stumbaugh said. “The coaching staff saw some things on film.” On the Martinez-to-Curry TD pass; “They bit on the run fake and Michael was able to get behind them.”
Kenny Herrera ran for the two-point conversion on the Tarpons’ last touchdown. Ryan Vasquez returned a kick-off for 39 yards, Luis Aguilera got 10 yards on a punt return, and Marcelo Sanchez made all four of his PAT kicks.
On the other side of the ball, Danny Medina and Jacques Guillot led the Tarpon D with six stops each and Kenny Herrera intercepted a fourth-quarter pass.
The Tarpons are off this week and await the winner of this Friday’s Lyford-Raymondville game, which will likely decide Port Isabel’s first round, bi-district playoff opponent from District 31-3A.
Read this story in the Nov. 5 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.