By Constancio Martinez Jr.
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Tarpons kicked off their season opener against the visiting 5A PSJA Southwest Javelinas last Friday, Oct. 30.
The Javelinas offense only threw the ball three times and ran 51 times. The game between Port Isabel and PSJA SW was looking to be an old school, heavy-run game with Port Isabel bringing back head coach Tony Villarreal and his predominantly run-based offense.
PSJA SW deferred to the second half and the Tarpons received the opening kickoff. On the third play of the game, a false-start penalty on the Tarpons put them in a 3rd and 10 situation at their own 18-yard line. On the ensuing play, senior quarterback Joey Krieghbaum connected with wide receiver Daniel Zamarron for a 31-yard pass play to get them to midfield. Unfortunately, the Tarpons fumbled the ball away on the next play in an abrupt end to the drive. The Hogs capitalized on the turnover as they went on a six-play touchdown drive capped by a 20-yard quarterback keeper. Hogs went up 7-0 with 7:10 in the first quarter.
The Tarpons struck right back as running back Adrian Nino eluded three would-be tacklers and ran 64 yards into the endzone for the score. With the kick good, the Tarpons tied up the game at 7-7. PSJA SW continued to lean on their ground game as they scored on a 12-play drive. A successful extra point put them up 14-7 with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
On the next Tarpons’ drive, QB Krieghbaum connected with Zamarron once again for a 14-yard pass play as the first quarter came to a close. The Tarpons’ misdirection plays had them knocking on the Hogs’ door once more, despite two fumbles and a pair of false start calls. Facing a 4th and 5 on the 8-yard line, running back Anthony Villarreal muscled his way up the middle for the score. A successful extra point kick tied the game up at 14-14 with 6:51 showing in the second quarter.
On the ensuing PSJA SW drive, the Tarpons’ defense swarmed to the runners as they made them earn every yard. Facing a 3rd and 19, Tarpons’ Isaiah Garcia tackled the runner for a 5-yard loss. The Hogs now faced a 4th and 25 and were forced to punt for the first time of the game. The Tarpons mounted a successful six-play drive as Villarreal scored his second touchdown with a 1-yard plunge into the endzone. The Tarpons now led the Hogs 21-14 with just 1:20 left in the first half.
The Hogs offense got rolling as a pair of big plays put them at the Tarpons’ 26-yard line. With 22 seconds left, the Hog’s running back scrambled into the endzone tying the game at 21-21. Things got a little dicey for the Tarpons, as they fumbled the ball away with 11 seconds to go at their own 35-yard line. As the Hogs attempted a pass up the middle, linebacker Angel Fernandez intercepted the ball ending any scoring chance for the Hogs.
The Tarpons opened up the second half with a booming kick off that was mishandled by the return man. Starting at their own 10-yard line, the Hogs managed to reach the Tarpons 49-yard line before the “Seawall Defense” stepped up and forced another punt. The PI offense struggled on its next possession as a penalty and a turnover gave the Hogs great field position at the Tarpons’ 28-yard line. A few plays later, the Hogs’ running back found the end zone as PSJA SW took a 28-21 lead with 5:07 showing in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the Tarpons seemed to be on the verge of another scoring drive as they marched all the way down to the Hogs 15-yard line, but several mishaps stalled their drive. First, the Tarpons were flagged on back-to-back false starts, then the Hogs broke up a reverse play forcing the ball to be turned over on downs.
On the ensuing drive, the Hogs put the Tarpons’ defense on their heels as they got two big runs to reach PI’s 21-yard line forcing the Tarpons to take a timeout. On the next play, the Hogs’ runner broke free for a 21-yard touchdown run. The Hogs were now up 35-21 with 8:42 left in the 4th quarter. A sense of desperation was felt by the coaches, players and Tarpon fans as they were now down by two touchdowns.
With time winding down, running backs Gilbert Medina and Adrian Nino energized the team as they bobbed and weaved through the Hog’s defense. Penalties threatened to stall the drive as the Tarpons’ were called once again for another set of false start calls, but the stable of capable runners managed to overcome the penalties. Facing a 1st and goal running back, Port Isabel’s Jordan Camacho capped the drive with a touchdown plunge. The Tarpons now trailed the Hogs 35-28 with just 2:38 left in the game.
Port Isabel elected to go for the onside kick and was successful as kicker Angel Fernandez recovered the ball. The Tarpons reached the Hog’s 30-yard line, but a downed player caused a 10 second runoff, leaving only 32 seconds left on the clock. On the final play of the game, the Tarpons were called for yet another false start and the game was called due to another 10-second runoff for a 35-28 final.
The game turned out to be a great back-and-forth between two equal teams. Port Isabel’s Head Football Coach Tony Villarreal said he was “proud of the kids,” and that they “never came off the field” as most played both offense and defense, which gave the advantage to a bigger school like PSJA Southwest.
A few players got hurt during the game, but the coach said 100% of the players showed up the next day. Aside from some bumps and bruises, the team was healthy.
The Tarpons planned to host the Raymondville Bearkats next Friday, Nov. 6, with the winner of the game earning a trip to the playoffs. The game has since been canceled, after a student athlete came into contact with someone at an “athletic event” tested positive for COVID-19, PI-ISD said in a press release.
The Tarpons’ game against PSJA Southwest was the first and final game of their 2020 season.
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