PHARR — PSJA High’s defense forced five turnovers and quarterback Jaime Lopez accounted for five touchdowns as the Bears roared past the Los Fresnos Falcons 35-7 during their Class 6A DI bi-district round contest Friday at PSJA Stadium.
The victory marks the Bears first playoff win since 2008 and the first of head coach Lupe Rodriguez’s career. They’ll take on San Antonio Brennan at home next week at a date and time to be determined.
“It is amazing to finally get one,” Rodriguez said. “It had been since 2008 that we had a playoff win. To do this tonight with these kids is really special. We talked about them being a special group and tonight they proved that.”
Lopez finished the night with 253 passing yards and four touchdown passes, adding 38 yards and one score on six carries. Senior Tony Gomez led all receivers with a game-high 90 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions.
The Bears defense allowed just 184 total yards of offense, while holding the Falcons to 3-of-11 on third down. Diego Santos, Johnny Martinez and Adam Pina each had an interception for the Bears.
“We always knew this year was different since the offseason,” Lopez said. “Our guys worked harder than I’ve ever seen. We just knew we had to come in and prove the doubters wrong. That was our drive all summer. To be able to put it out on display on this field, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Turnovers dominated the opening period, with the Bears and Falcons combining for five during the first quarter.
The second quarter brought more of the same, with PSJA High junior defensive back Diego Santos picking off Los Fresnos sophomore quarterback Robert Pineda for the Bears third forced turnover of the first half.
Santos’ interception sparked life into PSJA High’s offense, with Lopez tossing his first touchdown of the night just one play later, a 61-yard toss to Emiliano Fraga.
PSJA High’s defense wasn’t done yet, forcing another turnover on the Falcons next possession to set up their offense inside the 40 once again.
Lopez and the offense capitalized once again, this time hooking up with Ramze Arroyo for the 22-yard score to make it 14-0 midway through the second.
“The weather was a little factor,” Lopez said. “The rain was coming down kind of hard early on. We just knew we had to take care of the ball. We knew turnovers would run us out of this game. We knew what happened in Week 3 against these games where we couldn’t finish the game. We just had to settle in and make sure we protected the ball and finished the game.”
The Bears wasted no time picking up where they left off during the second half, with the defense forcing a quick three-and-out to get the ball back in Lopez’s hands.
The senior gunslinger repaid his D with this third touchdown pass of the night, finding Ryan Vallejo in stride for the 57-yard score to make it 21-0.
After Lopez’s fourth touchdown pass of the night, a 14-yard toss to Tony Gomez, the Falcons answered to cut into the deficit, with Pineda hitting Lucky Perales for a 70-yard touchdown.
The touchdown pass proved too little to late, with the Bears defense buckling down and adding a third interception of Pineda to all but seal the Falcons fate.
Lopez added a seven-yard touchdown run following PSJA High’s third interception of the night to put the final nail in the 35-7 victory.
“I know the offense gets a lot of credit, but the defense has come a long way too,” Rodriguez said. “The defensive coaches have done a great job in instilling a gameplan and making those guys believe. They’ve made plays all the past five or six games we’ve been on this streak. My hats off to this defense and their coaches. They did a hell of a job tonight.”