PORT ISABEL — The offensive and defensive playmakers tend to grab the headlines. It is expected, but it is those the trenches who can win a football game.
The Tarpons, the No. 2 sub-5A team in the latest RGVSports poll, have had excellent performances from their lineman to deliver wins over Class 5A opponents in recent weeks. The defensive line was key in helping Port Isabel to a win against Edcouch-Elsa last Friday, Tarpons head coach Tony Villarreal said.
Junior defensive linemen Chris Gonzalez, Enrique Vasquez and Steve Martinez had exceptional performances, Villarreal said, and were key in only allowing 3.4 yards a carry against the Yellow Jackets.
“This was probably one of my better games this season,” Gonzalez said. “I focused a lot more pregame, no joking around, read my keys and did everything I had to do.”
Martinez and Vasquez play offense as well. Both are guards on offense and embrace having to play both ways at times. Martinez said they are able to do it and be successful because of their conditioning.
The Tarpons went 83 yards during the final minutes to take a 34-30 lead and the eventual win on the road against the Yellow Jackets.
“It felt pretty good. It was a challenge, but we were able to accomplish it,” Vasquez said.
Edcouch-Elsa did pick up big plays by Jayreed Amaya, one of the best playmakers in the Valley this season, but it is always a sign of strength if sub-5A teams beat Class 5A competition.
The Tarpons also beat Valley View 20-13 earlier in the season. The Tigers are in District 15-5A DII like Edcouch-Elsa. Port Isabel hung around with District 16-5A DI’s Brownsville Veterans Memorial before losing 27-13.
“We purposely went against them so we can see where we needed to be,” Villarreal said. “Winning two big games like that and then coming just a yard away from beating Vets, I think it has really made our team more mature physically and mentally getting ready for district.”
The Tarpons return to action against Vietnamitas, a team from Mexico, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Port Isabel.
Santa Rosa and Brownsville St. Joseph picked up wins to start their district season and have tough road tests this week.
The Bloodhounds had beaten Victoria St. Joseph 43-21 in TAPPS Division II District 3 on Sept. 15. Brownsville St. Joseph takes on San Antonio Christian at 7 p.m. Friday in San Antonio.
The Warriors defeated George West 27-14 in a District 16-3A DII game last Friday. Santa Rosa face Odem at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Odem.
The Warriors and the Bloodhounds are the only sub-5A teams to pick up district wins so far.
Harlingen MMA (2-2) and Santa Maria (3-1) meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Marine Military Academy in Harlingen. The Cougars will be looking for a win before facing Freer in their District 16-2A DI opener.
The Leathernecks were beating La Villa at the half, so it could be another dog fight for a District 16-2A DI team against the only TCSAAL team in the Valley.
District 16-4A DII teams, Grulla (3-2) and Raymondville (1-4) face Coastal Bend teams on Friday. Grulla faces Orange Grove at 7:30 p.m. at Orange Grove, while Raymondville takes on Sinton at 7:30 p.m. at home.
Orange Grove and Sinton are in District 15-4A DII and are potential bi-district opponents. Grulla begins district play next week.
District 16-4A DI
La Feria (1-4, 0-1) and Hidalgo (0-4, 0-0) are looking for their first win in district. The Lions are at home to Tuloso-Midway (5-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Pirates face Zapata (3-2, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home.
District 16-3A DI
Lyford (5-0) won Thursday night against Bishop, from District 16-4A DII, to end their non-district season. Progreso (0-5) faces Woodsboro at 6 p.m. Saturday on the road. Rio Hondo has a bye.