PORT ISABEL — The Rio Hondo Bobcats picked up a key 6-2 win over the Port Isabel Tarpons on Tuesday.
Bobcats coach Candido Ochoa said the victory keeps Rio Hondo in playoff contention as it fights for the No. 4 seed in District 32-4A. The Bobcats were shorthanded for the entire second half, but they executed well on offense and goalkeeper Mariano Quezada came up with big saves to clinch the win.
“This win helped keep us in playoff contention,” Ochoa said. “We have a makeup game (today) against Brownsville (IDEA) Frontier, and if we get the three points there, we play La Feria on Friday with a chance to get into the playoffs. We’ve been playing (good) teams really tight, getting to overtime, we just haven’t gotten the result. Sometimes the ball doesn’t roll your way, but you have to keep going and we gave ourselves a chance to stay alive for the playoffs tonight, so I’m proud of the boys. It was a good win.”
Jonah Ortega and Anthony Vega were active and aggressive to get Rio Hondo attacking the goal from the jump. Port Isabel goalkeeper Cross Martinez and Rudy Barrera defended well to keep the Bobcats off the board early on.
Rio Hondo dominated possession throughout the first half, and it used a lengthy stretch of time on the offensive side of the field to build a 2-0 lead. Jason Rodriguez scored with 29:10 to play on a long kick into the left corner of the goal. Shortly after, Vega padded the lead.
Barrera, Luis Martinez and Jose Ronquillo stepped up to lead Port Isabel defensively and kept the speedy Rio Hondo offense off the board for more than 20 minutes. Angel Fernandez and Cesar Lopez played well on both sides of the ball and used the momentum created by defensive stops to chip into the lead. Midway through the half, Fernandez showed off his ball control and raced through the defense alone to make it 2-1.
“Cesar Lopez and Angel Fernandez (stood out) on the offensive side of the ball. They were able to transition back on defense as well, so they did a great job today,” Tarpons coach Lupe Zacarias said. “Good ball-handling, just being quick on his feet and getting to the ball, being effective and smart and getting the ball down field (are Fernandez’s strengths).”
Rio Hondo stayed aggressive and continued to get scoring chances off good defense. On a deep kick after a Bobcats steal, Vega got possession and beat two Port Isabel defenders to make it 3-1 with 1:55 remaining in the half. Vega almost scored a third goal right after his second, but Cross Martinez made a big save in goal. Vega argued the call and was issued a red card, ejecting him from the contest.
Ochoa was a bit worried about being down to 10 players for the second half, but he was pleased to see the Bobcats step up and pass well to build the lead. Victor Sanchez was Rio Hondo’s only forward after the ejection, and Ochoa said Sanchez, Ortega and Jeremiah Reyna did a good job keeping things rolling.
“I just told my boys that having one less man, we just had to pass the ball, and that’s what they did and they were able to pull out the victory,” Ochoa said. “They had to execute down a man or we would’ve been in a bind, so they executed the passes and finished on the goals, which is good.”
Crisp passes got Rio Hondo through the defense and to the net three more times during the second half. Sanchez scored one goal during the first five minutes, then Tomas Arredondo added another on a penalty kick midway through the half.
The Tarpons locked things up defensively for a good period of time and used improved passing of their own to find the goal. Ronquillo took the ball down the sideline, then made a great pass across the field to a zooming Fernandez, who beat several defenders in front of the box to make it 5-2.
Rodriguez added a goal late in the half, recovering his own blocked shots four times before getting one past Cross Martinez for his second score. Quezada, who was called “an immaculate goalie” by Ochoa, made some good saves throughout the match to keep Port Isabel’s scoring to a minimum despite the Tarpons working hard to get some good chances.
“I saw a lot of effort. We were good in transition and didn’t give up. We came up short, but the boys came out here and had a lot of fun,” Zacarias said.