By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
SAN BENITO – The Port Isabel Tarpons cranked up the running game, threw in a pair of touchdown passes, and beat the Lyford Bulldogs Friday night in a bi-district playoff game, 40-20, at San Benito’s Bobby Morrow Stadium.
The Tarpons led all the way after scoring on the game’s first possession. The win is Port Isabel’s first in the post-season since a bi-district victory over Raymondville in 2007, and the team now advances to play Sinton in the area round at Kingsville’s Javelina Stadium this Friday, Nov. 23. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Our goal was to be district champs, then bi-district champs, and play on Thanksgiving,” head coach Monty Stumbaugh said after Friday night’s game. “Now our goal is to beat Sinton and play in December.”
The Tarpon rushing attack was in top form and totaled 357 yards on the night and accounted for four of Port Isabel’s six touchdowns. Quarterback Isaiah Martinez led the team with 138 yards (14 att., 9.9-yd. ave.) on the ground and two scores, and threw two touchdown passes. Jaime Gonzalez ended the night with 83 yards rushing (5 att., 16.6-yd. ave.). Jacob Losoya ran for 69 yards (7, 9.9), Juan Aguilera totaled 34 yards on the ground (5, 6.8), and Javier Vela had 33 yards (4, 8.3). The Tarpons’ cumulative average for the game was 10.2 yards-per-carry.
It was one of the “Seawall Defense’s” best games of the season and it came at just the right time. The Tarpon stop troops held the Bulldogs to minus-six yards rushing and the Tarpon pass rush pressured Lyford quarterback Scott Arnold all night.
Port Isabel took the opening kick-off and, keeping the ball on the ground, marched downfield to a first-and-goal at the Lyford one. Quarterback Isaiah Martinez took it in from there, Marcelo Sanchez’s extra-point kick was good, and the Tarpons led 7-0 at 6:53 of the first quarter.
Lyford answered right back with an eight-yard Scott Arnold-to-James Cruz touchdown pass, but the Tarpons still led 7-6 after the PAT kick was missed. Arnold connected on 27 of 43 pass attempts for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
Port Isabel made it 14-6 on Martinez’s 10-yard strike to Michael Curry in the second quarter and the Tarpon “D” then made one of the biggest plays of the game. With the Bulldogs on the Tarpon five-yard line with a first-and-goal to go, defensive end Jacques Guillot charged in, sacked Arnold, and forced a fumble. The ball was picked up by Jose Garza, who returned it to midfield. On the first play, Martinez connected with Andrew Holland on a 51-yard scoring pass and the Tarpons were up 20-6.
Guillot finished with four total tackles, including three quarterback sacks. Miguel Ramirez and Jimmy Hernandez each got a sack. Ramirez also recovered a fumble, Jose “Gordo” Garza caused a fumble, and Jorge Mondragon led the defense with seven total tackles.
It was a 20-point Tarpon lead after Jaime Gonzalez’s 72-yard scoring sprint. Lyford’s Raymond Cavazos caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Arnold and it was 26-12, Tarpons, at the break.
On the opening offensive series of the third quarter, Arnold was intercepted by Luis Aguilera and again the Tarpons capitalized with Jacob Losoya’s 26-yard run to paydirt. Isaiah Martinez ran 26 yards for his second TD run of the game. Arnold threw six yards to J.T. Luna for the last touchdown of the night, Arnold’s pass to A.J. Rowland for two points was good, and that was a final, 40-20.
Sinton advances after their 53-16 bi-district win over Lytle. Sinton and Port Isabel last faced each other in the post-season in 1996, with the Tarpons winning the area-round game, 40-20.
The Port Isabel Athletic Department will be selling PI vs. Sinton Area Championship football tickets on Wednesday, November 21, and Thursday, November 22, from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Ticket prices are as follows: general admission for adults is $6; student admission is $3; at the gate all tickets will be $6. For additional information, call (956) 943-0110.
Read this story in the Nov. 22 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.