By CLAIRE CRUZ, Staff Writer
BROWNSVILLE — The final score in Brownsville Porter’s 42-28 loss to McAllen High in Friday’s District 16-5A Division I contest doesn’t show how tight the game was.
Despite picking up the win, McHi coach Patrick Shelby called the bout “too close for comfort.”
The Porter Cowboys (1-4, 0-4) showed fight to come from behind and take the lead midway through the third quarter, but the explosive connection between senior quarterback Hunter Curl and junior receiver Christian Echazarreta lifted the Bulldogs (4-1, 3-1) to victory.
“McAllen’s a well-coached football team. We made some mistakes there in the fourth quarter and couldn’t overcome it in the end,” Porter coach Carlos Uresti said. “I’m proud of the way the kids worked. They played hard, showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight. The score may not indicate how close the game was, they scored at the end with a minute and change left on another mental mistake on our part.”
The Bulldogs scored first with a 23-yard passing touchdown from Curl to Echazarreta.
Porter ate more than seven minutes of game clock on the ensuing drive and got some nice runs from its committee of backs, comprised of senior Juan Zavala, junior Marcos Ramirez and sophomore Gael Hernandez. But the Cowboys, using a slow and steady offensive approach for most of the night, couldn’t maintain momentum and failed to score.
“We were trying to make sure we executed offensively,” Uresti said. “We have a couple kids out with injuries, had a couple of new starters. We wanted to make sure we were all on the same page, didn’t want to go too fast, take our time with the play calls and give our defense a rest.”
The Cowboys’ defense had an overall strong outing led by Adriel Trevino, who tied the game after forcing and recovering a fumble on a fourth-down pass and running it back almost 30 yards for the score. Porter contained McHi’s run game and recorded three turnovers, but its secondary was burned on three long plays between Curl and Echazarreta that made the difference.
“We wanted to make sure we took away the run, and I think throughout the course of the night we did that. But when it was time for them to throw the ball, they made us pay,” Uresti said.
After a 29-yard rushing touchdown by Curl to cap an up-tempo drive, McHi needed only one play to extend its lead to 21-7. Echazarreta showed his speed, taking a sideline catch untouched into the end zone for an 80-yard score.
Porter wasn’t fazed by the highlight-reel play. Instead, the Cowboys picked up the tempo and drove 80 yards in less than two minutes, helped by a 27-yard reception by senior receiver Adolfo Gonzalez from senior quarterback Kyle Aguirre. A 2-yard rushing score by Aguirre made it 21-14 at half.
The Cowboys came out hot during the third quarter. Hernandez scored on a 21-yard carry to tie the game, then Porter’s special teams came up big. A McHi player bobbled the ensuing kickoff and was hit hard by Trevino inside the 10, causing a fumble that was recovered by senior DB Chris Ortiz on the 2. Junior receiver Gunnar Williams used back-to-back 1-yard carries to score and give Porter its first lead, 28-21.
“We just had to communicate, get lined up and execute,” Shelby said. “We talk about having perfect execution, and we did that on some plays which allowed us to take that lead back. All we ask is they give us their best every single time, and we feel confident in our guys that if they do that we’ll be good.”
The Bulldogs responded with a quick drive behind senior running back Weston Guzman and costly penalties committed by Porter. Guzman scored on a 2-yard rush to tie the game with 5:31 in the third, and then McHi’s defense forced a punt. Porter defensive linemen Arath De La Torre and Samuel Moreno almost forced a three-and-out but on third-and-8, Curl hit Echazarreta in the middle of the field for a 74-yard touchdown.
After a turnover, the dynamic duo linked up again for a 75-yard score to seal the deal.
“Offensively, it starts up front with the O-line,” Shelby said. “The line did a great job with protection, and (Curl and Echazarreta) have a good connection to keep plays alive. They’re both on the same page right now, that’s something we really saw tonight, so good thing they’re both on our team.”
Trailing with time winding down, Porter’s offense pushed a bit too much, resulting in back-to-back interceptions by senior defensive backs Kolten Ottmers and Thomas Alaniz to help McHi hold on.
The Cowboys moved the ball well with their running back trio following the offensive line to pick up consistent medium-yardage gains. Williams showed his athleticism, picking up yards after catches and from the backfield as he stutter-stepped defenders and slipped tackles. Trevino contributed to all three Porter turnovers, hauling in an interception during the fourth quarter.
Senior defensive end Anthony Battista, junior linebacker Diego Avila, Ottmers and Alaniz led the Bulldogs defensively. Next up, McHi faces Weslaco East, and Porter will battle La Joya Palmview.
“There’s not going to be any easy (district) games,” Shelby said. “Porter, Coach Uresti, they did a great job preparing their kids tonight and getting them ready to go. They played extremely hard. I was really happy to see our boys bounce back after halftime, regroup and come out and finish.”