Cardinals’ Brandon Herrera scores twice on returns
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Southwest transfer Erin Mack ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns, leading Sam Houston to a 45-29 win Friday at Southside Stadium.
Mack transferred to Sam Houston at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Although it can be difficult to transfer to a new, unfamiliar school as a senior, Mack said he feels comfortable in his new surroundings.
“It’s been good,”Mack said. “I get along with all of the players. I really like it over here.”
In his second game with the Hurricanes (1-1), he’s already become a big part of their offense. Mack carried the ball 30 times in the non-district game. He scored the game’s first touchdown, helped Sam Houston build a 20-7 halftime lead and provided a two-touchdown lead midway through the third quarter.
The win ended a 12-game losing streak for the Hurricanes.
“We knew we had to come out strong,” Sam Houston senior running back-cornerback Tomaria Stringfellow said . “We don’t underestimate any team. They’ve got a good team. We had to come out and play with determination.”
Despite Mack’s heroics, Southside (0-2) closed within 32-29 with 5:32 remaining when junior Brandon Herrera scored his second special teams touchdown of the evening. Herrera blocked a punt and picked it out of the air for a 39-yard touchdown.
Herrera scored earlier on a long kickoff return.
“Brandon is probably our most consistent and has the most ability to make some big plays,” Southside coach Paul Haberer said. “We re looking to find ways to get him more involved offensively, but he has definitely given some great impact defensively and on special teams.”
The Cardinals narrowed the margin to three when quarterback Johnny Trevino (164 passing yards, 90 rushing yards) ran for the two-point conversion.
Sam Houston put the game away with two big plays.
“We definitely had our struggles offensively the first half,” Haberer said. “We needed to get our kids into a formation where we found some weaknesses and could have some success.
“We did a better job the second half . We just must eliminate the turnovers to be successful. When we become consistent, I think we can have some huge success.”
The Hurricanes scored on a 75-yard pass play from left-handed sophomore quarterback Raymonte Prime (9 of 19, 263 yards) to Taveon Jones (3 receptions, 134 yards). Jones made a nice cut to catch the ball on the Southside 35, spinning his defender around in the process and opening a clear path to the end zone.
“His poise was unbelievable for a sophomore,” Green said of Prime. “I think he’s still 15. I don’t think he’s 16 yet.”
Ahead 39-29, Sam Houston sealed Southside’s fate by producing two of Southside’s four interceptions. Donald Jackson returned the fourth 68 yards for an insurance touchdown with just 1:22 remaining.
“We working on everything,” Sam Houston coach Gary Green said with a smile, when asked about the team’s emphasis after losing 63-0 to Brackenridge in its opener.
“We have 17 sophomores on varsity. We’re still making a lot of mistakes, but our progress from last week to this week was very good.”
The Hurricanes overcame 13 penalties totalling 109 yards. Four of the Cardinals’ 15 first downs resulted from Sam Houston penalties.
Afterward, Green told his team that if it had eliminated mistakes it could have scored 20 more points.
“Sam’s running back and quarterback were big play threats,” Haberer said. “They did a good job of making things happen when it counted on third down. We, as a team, need to get better on big-play downs to be more successful.
Interceptions plagued Southside in a game whose kickoff was delayed 35 minutes by lightning. Stringfellow picked off a pass in the first quarter, setting up Mack’s first touchdown run.
“Our linebacker lined up wrong, so everybody was sort of out of position,” Stringfellow said. “I just watched the quarterback and reacted. I caught the ball and just ran with it.
“It felt great to get that ball, and then to get a touchdown, Our line did a great job. We came out excited and took over. We forgot that loss from last week.”
Mack scored from 13 yards out with 5:11 left in the quarter.
The Hurricanes’ first drive ended with an interception by Southside’s Alex Diaz, but Prime had stretched the defense with a pair of long completions.
“It gave us a lot more running room because they had to set up farther back,” Mack said. “They had to (respect) the pass, and that just opened up the run.”
Sam Houston rolled up 134 total yards and added two touchdowns to its lead in the second quarter.
“Defensively, we have to become to have the mindset to get off the field on third down,” Haberer said. “We did a good job on first and second, but made some mistakes that were costly on third down.”
Stringfellow scored the Hurricanes’ second touchdown, on a 14-yard sweep to the right side while Mack was taking a rest. The senior cornerback/running back capped a 76-yard, 10-play drive.
The victory ended a 12-game losing steak for Sam Houston.
“We knew we had to come out strong,” he said. “We don’t underestimate any team. They’ve got a good team. We had to come out and play with determination.”
Southside scored its first touchdown in response to Stringfellow’s score. Herrera picked up a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff and rambled 80 yards to the end zone to make it 13-7.
Sam Houston led by 13 at halftime after mounting another long drive. Mack scored on a three-yard run at the end of a 65-play march with 2:23 until the half.
Southside capitalized on a Hurricanes personal foul on the first drive of the second half. Cardinals junior receiver David Garza made a great belly-level catch on a deep curl route, ahead of a closing Sam Houston defender. The 37-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 from Trevino made it 20-14 with 9:54 left in the third period.
The Hurricanes responded with a 72-yard, eight-play scoring drive, culminating with a 24-yard run from Erin Mack on a third-down play. Mack’s third touchdown made it 26-14 with 6:55 left in the third quarter. On the drive, he gained 68 yards, doubling his total to 136 for the game at that stage.
“We always say don’t give up the big play defensively,” Haberer said, “end every possession offensively with a kick (field goal, extra point or punt) and win the special teams battle. I have seen us do this in glimpses but not consistent enough to win a game, I believe we will get there and get there soon.”
The Southside sophomore turned a quarterback draw into a 44-yard touchdown, keeping the Cardinals within striking range at 26-21 with a little less than 10 minutes to play. Trevino accounted for all of the Cardinals’ yardage on the drive. carried four times for 70 yards and passed four yards to Sergio Zuniga.
Sam Houston needed just four plays to pull itself out of danger yet again.
Mack raced 56 yards on the first play, then brought the Hurricanes to the 1. Sophomore fullback Xavier Morris (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) powered his way into the end zone for an 11-point lead with 7:43 left.
“He was just great,” Green said. “Our young guys needed to have some success. This was good for them.”
Sam Houston’s previous win was a 31-12 victory over Yoakum in the 2011 regular-season finale.