By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
There are those people who are known as defensive purists or specialists. The only problem they may have with a 0-0 final score is that their team didn’t win. For the first time in its history last Saturday night the RGVCA East-West All-Star Football Game ended with neither team getting a score of any kind; final score, 0-0.
Low-scoring games are sometimes called defensive struggles. To this writer that’s a misnomer. When I see a game that ends with a score like, say, 3-0, 6-0, or 7-6, it seems to me that the defense isn’t struggling at all and, in fact, is doing just fine. It’s the offense that’s struggling, struggling against a defense that won’t let it gain any yards, get out of its own end of the field, or put points on the board.
The honor of coaching the East squad went to Port Isabel High Head Coach Monty Stumbaugh. He and his staff got the assignment because the Tarpons made the deepest run in last season’s playoffs of any Lower Rio Grande Valley team of any class. Playing for their own coaches on the East team were Javier Vela, Luis Aguilera, and Danny Medina.
It was a hard-hitting contest throughout and the Press visited with Coach Stumbaugh in his office on Monday to get his thoughts on the game and what it means to be a part of it.
“This is the second time we’ve done it,” Stumbaugh said. “It’s an honor and a fun thing. It’s time consuming but it’s fun.”
The teams practiced Monday through Thursday for two weeks to prepare for the game. Efforts were made to keep the offenses simple and, just as it is for any team at the start of a new season, it’s harder to get an offense hitting on all cylinders than it is a defense.
“Terminology was part of the problem,” Stumbaugh told the Press. “We might call something one thing and another school might call the same thing something else. We wanted to run the option and we had problems with the pitch-outs. We had four or five runs out of the shotgun, a couple of screens, a couple of trick plays here and there.”
Both teams had their chances to score, according to Stumbaugh, but neither side could get the ball into the end zone, or even between the uprights. “They missed a couple of field goals. In the third quarter we got down to about the 15-yard line and missed a field goal. We had our chances. It was a defensive game. Both defenses played well.”
Another kind of defensive specialist is a player who only plays defense. Danny Medina and Luis Aguilera played on the defensive side of the ball nearly all of the time for the 2012 Tarpons squad that made it all the way to the regional final in the playoffs. They played alongside several players who played against them during the season. District rivals La Feria and Rio Hondo placed a total of five players on the East team, including quarterbacks Jesus Ramon for La Feria and Juan Puga of Rio Hondo.
“It was pretty cool, talking to the guys from the other schools,” Medina said in the weight room this week. “Mostly it was the 5A guys wanting to talk to us because of our playoff run.”
“It was a good experience…getting to meet new people,” said Aguilera. “The first day (of practice) we talked to the Rio Hondo guys, and later on we started talking to the La Feria guys. They were cool guys.”
Representing the Tarpon offense was running back Javier Vela. “First of all, I have to thank God for being in this position. All the guys…they were a bunch of smart, intelligent kids. For two weeks of practice…to learn all the plays. It was an incredible effort by everybody.”
Vela, Medina, and Aguilera have played their last games for Port Isabel High, as all are on schedule to graduate this month. All three players will take great memories with them. “When I look back on my career, it’s just a good feeling to know that I did what I could,” Vela told the Press. “It was a great moment. I didn’t know what to do,” Medina said, referring to the end of the overtime playoff win over Navarro. “It’s hard to explain. You just have to experience it.”