AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Harlandale, Jefferson.
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Being optimistic on the football field can be the way to reap important dividends.
For Harlandale senior Brandon Rodriguez his actions helped seal a 28-21 win over Jefferson Sept. 12 at Alamo Stadium in the District 28-5A opener. The Indians (1-2, 1-0) led by a touchdown when Rodriguez spotted a Mustangs fumble and turned it into a clinching score.
“He kept it and I saw the ball come out,” Rodriguez said of Jefferson quarterback General Gonzalez. “I checked to see if I was the only one there. There was a receiver eyeing it, but my defensive line kept him away.
“When I saw Isaac (Barrera) blocking for me, I knew I could take it all the way.”
Gonzalez rebounded to throw a 29 yards to sophomore Erick Martinez with five seconds left for Jefferson (0-3, 0-1), but the Indians fell on the onside kick and ran out the clock. The Mustangs had scored first in a defense-dominated opening half and led until relatively late in the third quarter.
However, Harlandale made the plays thereafter that earned its first 2015 win.
“Our defense did a great job,” Harlandale coach Isaac Martinez said. “They got (Jefferson) out of a couple of things. Up front we did a decent job of putting pressure on them and we got a couple of turnovers. That scoop-and-score most definitely helped us.”
Jefferson senior Jesse Flores (155 yards, 23 carries) provided a 7-0 lead when he recovered his own fumble to score on a seven-yard run. Flores took the handoff at the 7-yard line, but lost the handle at about the 5. The ball took a couple of bounces but Flores was able to scoop it up and plunge into the end zone.
On the ensuing drive and Harlandale’s only possession of the second quarter, the Indians tied it 7-7. A 20-yard pass from Jacob Delgado to Vincent Hernandez put them in scoring territory at the Jefferson 13. Villarreal took a direct snap and ran five yards with 2:41 left in the half.
“We just want to give teams a different look here and there,” Martinez said. “Sometimes it’s good to give them a different wrinkle to prepare for.”
Harlandale was coming off losses to Devine and Somerset by a combined 57 points. The Indians’ first two opponents each ended the week 2-1.
“Both teams played very well against us,” Delgado said, “but we believed we could have done better if we had worked harder. We knew we had to pick up the intensity to get a win. We knew we were capable.
“Once we started clicking tonight, we played really well. We beat a good team.”
With 4:34 remaining in the third quarter, Mustangs junior Anthony Freire returned the interception 82 yards for a 14-7 lead. Juan Palomino took the ensung kickoff 88 yards and the teams were all square again.
“Juan is just now learning our system and finding out where he needs to be,” Martinez said.
Villarreal scored his second touchdown on a direct snap with 4:46 left in the game, capping a 52-yard drive off a Mustangs punt. Delgado ran for two first downs and passed 13 yards to Shawn Tober for another.
“I can’t do anything without my offensive line,” Delgado said of his effectiveness on quarterback sneaks. “The entire offensive line was putting it on them. Week after week, they’ve been getting better. Hopefully, that will keep going.”
From the Jefferson 5, Villarreal took a direct snap and surged up the middle for his second touchdown.
“We knew we had to pick up the intensity a little bit more,” Delgado said of the second half. “We tried to spread the field a little more. I threw that interception, but Rene Palomino picked us all up with that runback.
“We knew what we had to do to finish it off.”
Three Jefferson plays later, Rodriguez seized an opportunity,
“We can’t do it without each other,” Rodriguez said. “It’s our senior year, so we want to give it all we’ve got. Our younger teammates are all working their hardest, too.”