RIO HONDO — ZaRavion Armendarez rushed for two touchdowns and hauled in a reception for a third score as Raymondville defeated Rio Hondo in decisive fashion, 35-21, to open District 16-4A Division II play Friday night.
Armendarez was heavily involved in the early going for the Bearkats (6-1, 1-0 16-4A DII), including the first score of the night, a 14-yard touchdown run that put the visitors ahead 7-0 at the 8:44 mark of the first quarter.
“I thought our offense played great,” Raymondville coach Frank Cantu said. “We scored every time we had the ball in the first half (except for a late fumble).”
One of several players to take a snap under center aside from starting quarterback Jayson Cantu, Armendarez handed the ball off to senior running back Justin Smith, who rushed for an 8-yard touchdown to double the Raymondville lead with 3:48 to go in the first quarter.
The Bobcats (3-4, 0-1 16-4A DII) responded with 29 seconds remaining in the period when Rio Hondo’s Matthew Treviño found Joey Ortega for a 30-yard touchdown on a double-reverse flea-flicker to make the score 14-7.
But Raymondville called Armendarez’s number again, and he delivered a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter and caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jayson Cantu to break the game open and put the Bearkats ahead 28-7 with 9:18 to go in the second quarter.
The next series nearly ended in disaster for Rio Hondo, when a bungled exchange on an attempted handoff on the first play from scrimmage following the ensuing kickoff was fumbled and recovered by Raymondville. But Justin Cantu proceeded to fumble the ball at the 1-yard line, and Rio Hondo’s Lucas Hernandez recovered it with 7:58 to go in the first half.
Rio Hondo’s drive lasted nearly the remainder of the half, aided by a Raymondville facemask call. The Bobcats reached the Bearkats’ 11-yard line before a trick play ended with an interception by Arturo Sayas to squander Rio Hondo’s best scoring chance of the first half.
The Raymondville defense ceded some ground, but stood firm in key situations.
“I thought we made some tough stops early,” Cantu said. “I thought we had to stop them early to stop their momentum. We bent some but we didn’t break, and we were able to keep (the score) there.”
An 8-yard Justin Cantu rushing touchdown put Raymondville in command, giving the visitors a 35-7 advantage with 3:11 to play in the third quarter.
“(Raymondville is) a really good football team,” Rio Hondo coach Rocky James said. “They’re really fast. We put some faster guys out there in the second half, and I think that helped. We came out and gave up one touchdown in the second half.”
Rio Hondo battled back with a pair of scores, including a 14-yard touchdown pass from Treviño to Jonah Ortega for a 14-yard touchdown during the waning seconds of the third quarter, and Ethan Jeradiah rushed for a 38-yard touchdown with 3:32 to go in the game.
But the effort proved to be too little, too late for the Bobcats.
“This time we played a good second half,” James said. “But it looked like we were shell-shocked in the first half.”