By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
He was known as the “Nitro Man” or, simply, “Nitro.” He is Port Isabel Junior High, and part-time Varsity, football coach Johnny Nieto. He recently met with the Press at a local burger place and shared the memories of his playing days as a Port Isabel Tarpon.
Nieto began his Varsity career with the 2002 season under then head coach Monty Stumbaugh. The program had been in a bit of a slump. Since going undefeated all the way to the state semi-finals in 1994 the Tarpons went past the second round of the playoffs only once in the next seven years. Things began to look up in 2002 when Nieto made his Varsity debut.
The Tarpons went three-deep in the playoffs that year and made a surprise run back to the state semis in ’03. They shut out Orange Grove 28-0 in bi-district, beat Hondo, 37-20, in the Area round, and got past Liberty Hill, 35-27, in the regional semi-final. There followed one of the great post-season wins in Tarpon football history, against Altair-Rice Consolidated. The score was tied at 35-all at the end of regulation and it took quadruple overtime to ultimately decide the issue. Each team scored in the first three overtimes and it came down to a two-point try by Altair Rice in an attempt to send the game to a fifth overtime. Nieto recounted the events.
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