By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
A good team can win any kind of game. That includes high-scoring games, low-scoring games, games decided by special teams and games that hinge on a late turnover. On Friday night at Rio Grande City the Port Isabel Tarpons showed the necessary grit they had to have to hold on and win one of the lowest-scoring Port Isabel games in recent memory.
The final score was 13-7 and the Tarpons’ “Seawall Defense” played a major role in the final outcome of this one. Field goals and extra points also made a huge difference; Tarpon kicker Williams Romero was perfect on the night with two field goals and a PAT on three attempts.
“I told the kids these guys are going to come to play,” Port Isabel head coach Monty Stumbaugh said this week. “We were fortunate to beat them last year (36-27 at Tarpon Stadium), and 5A’s don’t like to get beat by 4A’s. A lot of our kids stepped up and grew up a little bit.”
“They started off first,” Tarpon running back Alex de los Santos said this week. “They hit us first in the mouth. We came back and hit them back, and our defense was incredible.”
Port Isabel’s touchdown was scored by junior Carlos Orduna. “It was “18-pitch”, Stumbaugh told the Press Tuesday. “It was a three-yard run. Before that he had about a 10 yard run, breaking several tackles.” Orduna totaled only 15 yards on the ground (five attempts) but the touchdown was huge.
The score came on the Tarpons’ initial series of the third quarter after forcing a Rattlers punt on the first possession of the half. The drive covered 51 yards in seven plays, all on the ground.
Rio Grande City took an early 7-0 lead on the second offensive series of the contest. “The first drive they went right down the field and scored pretty easily,” Stumbaugh said. “We made a lot of mistakes and we came out a little flat. We knew they were going to get after us.”
The Rattlers led 7-3 after Romero’s first field goal and Orduna’s TD gave the Tarpons their first lead, 10-7. Romero’s second three-pointer gave P.I. a precarious six-point lead. All Rio Grande City needed was a touchdown and the PAT to take the lead and maybe pull the game out.
The Tarpon D would have none of it but it didn’t exactly go according to plan.
With a few minutes left to play, Port Isabel stopped RGC and took over on downs with a chance to run out the clock, but the Tarpons had to punt. Again the Rattlers were held on fourth down and again P.I. had a chance to put the game away. Less than three minutes showed on the clock and Port Isabel turned the ball over. The ‘Seawall Defense’ came up big one last time. A big hit by Raul Villarreal forced a fumble, Williams Romero recovered for P.I., and this time the Tarpons were able to run out the clock.
“The last two times they had the ball with a short field, and our defense rose up and got a stop on four downs,” Stumbaugh said. “Then we got the big turnover and were able to win the game. We bent but we didn’t break.”
Penalties were a problem for the Tarpons and several big plays were called back. “We had, probably, over 120 yards (rushing) called back on penalties. Alex (de los Santos) had a 70, 75-yard run called back. We were on (our) two-yard line and he broke one right before the half.”
“There was a lot of heart – that’s what we have on this team,” de los Santos told the Press on Tuesday. “There were a lot of penalties against us. No matter what, we’re still going to fight. That’s how we play Tarpon football.”
Port Isabel just managed to outgain RGC in total offense, 227 yards to 224. Seventeen of the Tarpons’ yards came on their first two pass completions (by QB Omar Silva) of this young season.
Ivan Gonzalez led the Tarpons with 60 yards gained on the ground on six carries for a 10 yard average. Chris Bode led the team with 13 total tackles and Raul Villareall had 10, including a quarterback sack. Trey Mock and Omar Silva each also forced a fumble, and Orduna, John R. Martinez, and Juan Apango also recovered a fumble apiece.
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