Rockets block punt, produce four turnovers in 25-7 win over Pearsall
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Kennedy hasn’t been relying on scoring points only in the conventional manner. As the Rockets demonstrated once again Friday night, any of their units can generate scoring.
In a 25-7 victory over Pearsall, Kennedy (3-0) supplemented its offensive output with a kickoff return for touchdown, a field goal and a safety. A blocked punt and a fumble recovery started touchdown drives Friday at Frank Mata Stadium. Another fumble recovery halted the Mavericks’ first scoring threat.
Through three games, the Rockets’ defense has scored 20 points and limited opponents to 27.
“They’ve been sensational at creating opportunities and putting points on the board,” Kennedy coach Richard Cerda said. “It’s been a matter of being positive and having determination.
“We’ve been playing very well defensively. We’ve gotten ourselves into some good situations and taken advantage of every opportunity.”
A blocked punt by Fabian Flores, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the Rockets’ opener, set up Kennedy’s first points. Flores not only blocked it, but recovered the ball on the Pearsall 7.
Although Kennedy wasn’t able to move the ball, it capitalized with a 24-yard field goal from Kevin Garduno with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter.
It was the first of four turnovers, including an interception by Justin Flores, for winless Pearsall.
“We’re so determined,” Kennedy defensive end Tomas Garcia said. “We always work so hard. Thanks to Coach (Cerda), we work hard in practice and it shows on the field.”
With about 10 minutes until halftime, a heavy rain began to fall. Although it had mostly dissipated by the fourth quarter, it affected both teams. Kennedy lost two fumbles in the second half.
By then, the Rockets had a sturdy lead.
Following a short punt by Pearsall, which was a direct result of the rain, senior back Matthew Avalos (239 yards, 31 attempts) carried the ball on four consecutive plays. He picked up the entire 36 yards needed for the score, using second effort to propel himself into the end zone from the Mavericks 4 for a 10-0 lead at the 6:01 mark of the second quarter.
“What drives Matthew is the love of the game,” Cerda said. “Even when we were up 44-7 last week (against Jefferson), Matthew never stops. Now he’s a senior, so he’s more mature. He’s a good kid and he’s making sure everybody has the right attitude.”
Garcia recovered a fumble with a little less than 1:30 until halftime after Pearsall drove to the Kennedy 19. He sacked Mavericks quarterback TJ Navarro and recovered the resulting fumble at the Rockets’ 26 to preserve a 10-point halftime lead.
“We know we have a chance to keep this going,” Garcia said. “There’s always going to be a hard game ahead, but we just have to stay focused and execute.”
Kennedy relied on different players and different plays in the red zone to prepare itself for the district games ahead.
“We had a plan for that,” Cerda said. “We tried to execute it the best we could. The weather played a little part in that. It didn’t quite work out the way we planned it, but there were some things we did ourselves and some that are a credit to their team. But we also did some good things.
“We’ll be fine.”
In the third quarter, the defense added two points to Kennedy’s total. The Rockets’ front line pressured Navarro into a fumble in his own end zone. The safety gave Kennedy a 12-0 lead with 5:37 left in the quarter.
Pearsall scored its only touchdown on the last play of the third quarter when Navarro passed 25 yards to Jason Wolfe.
Matthew Guzman returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to restore the margin for the Rockets. It was the team’s first kickoff return for touchdown this year.
“We prove ourselves by going three-and-out,” Rockets defensive tackle Martin Galvan said, “ and getting off the field as fast as we can. We always try to get the ball to the offense in good field position.
“We’re ready for district.”
A fumble recovery by Galvan at the Mavericks 38 two plays later set up Kennedy’s last touchdown. .
Avalos capped the scoring with a three-yard run just under six minutes from the end. It was the senior back’s fifth touchdown of the season.
“I’m really pleased with where we’re at right now,” Cerda said.
Kennedy begins District 29-4A play next Friday with a 7 p.m. game at Uvalde (1-2). Cerda believes the Rockets are capable of qualifying for the postseason and possibly can contend for the title.
“It’s going to be a tough district, but I think we have a good shot,” Cerda said. “There are just two things we need to be concerned about: We have to be consistent and stay healthy.
“They’re great kids, and they can contend for a playoff spot. I’m excited for them to do that and I’m excited for our district opener in Uvalde.”