By CONSTANCIO MARTINEZ, JR.
Special to the PRESS
Even when two teams are having a down year, the Friday night lights atmosphere is like no other. As such was the case when long-time rivals, the Port Isabel Tarpons (3-4) and Rio Hondo Bobcats (4-4), met this past Friday night for the 68th time. Their long-standing rivalry dates back to Port Isabel’s inaugural season in 1950. The Tarpons have not beaten the Bobcats since 2013, and with a 2nd place playoff seeding on the line, the Tarpons went all out in their effort to beat their rival.
The Tarpons opened the game starting at their own 30-yard line as they chipped away with a mix of runs and short passes. Facing a 4th and 5 at their own 48-yard line, the Tarpons elected to go for it, but the runner was
tackled for no gain. Taking over good field position, the Bobcats managed to reach the Tarpons 27-yard line in just two plays. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the Tarpons’ defense made a great play as they stripped the runner on the following play ending the Bobcats scoring threat.
On the ensuing drive, the Bobcats’ defense flexed their muscles as well as they sacked Tarpons’ quarterback Joey Krieghbaum for an 8yard loss. Unable to recover from the setback, the Tarpons punted. On Rio Hondo’s next drive, QB Matthew Trevino made a 19-yard pass play, putting the Bobcats back into Tarpon territory. A few plays later, the Tarpons’ defense rose up to the occasion again and stopped the Bobcats on 4th down. The crowd’s cheers diminished as the refs called a roughingthe-passer penalty on the Tarpons. Given new life, the Bobcats went on to score five plays later. A successful kick put the Bobcats up 7-0 with 1:32 showing in the 1st quarter.
The Tarpons chewed up most of the 2nd quarter as they went on a 17-play drive with running back Brayan Medina carrying the bulk of the load. The Tarpons faced with a 4th and goal at the 8-yard line and elected to go for the field goal. Unfortunately, the kick went wide left. The Bobcats took over at their own 20-yard line, but only gained nine yards as they lined up for what looked like a punt. A gutsy fake punt was attempted by Rio Hondo, and the Tarpons’ defense stopped them in their tracks. The Tarpon fanatics cheers quickly turned into boos as the refs called a personal foul on the Tarpons once again. The Bobcats went on to score seven plays later, Tarpons fall to Bobcats 27-15 putting the Cats up 14-0 with 2:38 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Rio Hondo opened the second half with a big 44-yard kickoff return. The Cats offense clawed their way to the Tarpons’ 24-yard line where they threatened to break the game wide open as they attempted a pass into the endzone. Tarpons’ Will Camacho out-jumped the receiver and secured the interception. The Tarpons’ offense continued to struggle as they went 3-and-out. Picking up where they left off, Cats running back Ethan Jeradiah ran up the middle for a big 38-yard run. Three plays later, the Cats scored as they increased their lead to 21-0.
Defense and lack of execution led to the teams trading punts, as the 3rd quarter came to an end. Around the 11-minute mark, in the 4th quarter, the Bobcats made a 41yard field goal to extend their lead to 24-0. On the ensuing Tarpon drive, the Tarpons finally got on the scoreboard as Krieghbaum connected with Mac Strunk for a 76-yard touchdown play. A successful 2-point try made it 24-8 in favor of the Cats.
After the Bobcats settled for another field goal, the Tarpons made it interesting as the 4th quarter was coming to an end. Medina wore the Cats defense down as they drove 70 yards for the touchdown. A successful kick made it 2715. Before the kickoff, the Rio Hondo coaches were still disputing a personal foul call they received when the Tarpons scored and whatever they said earned them another 15-yard penalty from the referees. This enabled the Tarpons to try an onside kick from the Cats 30-yard line. The Tarpons gambled on an onside kick, and it paid off, as they recovered the ball at the Bobcats’ 20-yard line. With time winding down, the Tarpons faced a 4th-andgoal at the Cats 2-yard line, but got stopped at the line of scrimmage. The Cats ran the time off for a 27-15 final.