Warriors offense out of sync against Gregory-Portland
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Jayce Serrano loomed on the edge of the field goal formation, waiting to strike. The junior defensive back knows he has to give each play his all, even over a measly point.
"I just try to hustle on every single play, knowing that any little thing can make a difference," he said.
It was his block against Beeville that made all the difference, a blocked extra point, which allowed the Warriors to escape in overtime with a one-point win a few weeks ago.
And on this occasion, an extra point early in Friday's game against Gregory-Portland, he's able to swoop in, dive and get a hand on the ball before it takes off.
Serrano got his hand on two extra points, making it five blocked in the district season alone, a powerful weapon on a special teams unit that has had its low points this season for Victoria West.
"Jayce has been great on extra points this year," said Warriors coach Leonard McAngus. "He does a great job, he's going to give you 100 percent every time."
But even Serrano's tenacity wasn't enough for the slow agony the Gregory-Portland offense wrought on the Warriors.
"As the game went on, we were expecting them to run the clock to run out the game," Serrano said. "It wasn't any one big play, it was persistent moving of the ball. They dominated us up front and that's what they needed to do."
The Wildcats nickel and dimed the Warriors up and down the field in a 39-14 win that could have helped either team's playoff chances heading into the final week.
With the loss, Victoria East secures a share the District 30-4A crown by virtue of its win over Floresville on the road and the Titans win earlier this season over second-place Calhoun. The Warriors, with Beeville's loss, will likely make the playoffs, but seeding is at stake in next week's season finale against Victoria East.
Gregory-Portland had only two plays from scrimmage of more than 15 yards, both passes to senior running back Justin McArthur for significant gains to set up touchdowns, and didn't have any player with more than 100 total rushing or receiving yards, although McArthur had 158 total yards (97 receiving, 61 rushing) and two touchdowns.
McAngus said the defensive effort was an improvement from the week before. But the struggles were apparent and noticeable.
"We didn't give up a lot of big plays and we made them earn their yards," he said. "But we still were not able to stop them offensively. Probably the biggest difference was that we couldn't stop them very often."
The Wildcats also exploited a Warriors offense that can be potent, but has had bouts of inconsistency, particularly in the running game.
Sophomore running back Chris Franklin struggled to muster anything from the line of scrimmage, getting just 13 yards on 13 carries. He disappeared in the second half as the Warriors fell further behind. Combined, the Warriors ran the ball just 26 times for a paltry 46 yards.
"I've got to give them credit, they did a good job of keeping us from being able to run the football real effectively, which forced us to throw it a little more than we wanted to," McAngus said.
And it took away a lot from the passing game, which had several big plays but couldn't find enough consistency to move the ball.
It wasn't about the passes caught, but rather the passes overthrown, dropped or intercepted.
The Warriors squandered a chance to jump out to an eight-point lead early in the second when, on fourth and one from the Wildcats' 27, senior quarterback Kyle Motal threw a pass to an open Seth Harrison breaking for the end zone. He juggled the ball and dropped it.
Gregory-Portland took advantage on the next play on a play-action pass to Justin McArthur for 76 yards, a pivotal play to put the Wildcats up and the Warriors on edge.
Motal finished the game 12-of-23 passing with 210 yards and a touchdown.
But he threw two costly interceptions in the second half, one in the third quarter to help the Wildcats jump out to a three-score lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the last with less than five minutes remaining to seal the loss.
"They were giving us five guys in the box, and we weren't able to run the ball," McAngus said. "It made the passing game crucial. The windows were smaller because there were more guys covering, and we made some mistakes."
They would squander another fourth down later in the half when Motal overthrew his receiver inside the Wildcats' 20.
The Wildcats' offensive strategy was a far cry from what the week before, where they rushed the ball almost exclusively for a half before dropping it completely for a chance to spread the ball around passing against Victoria East in the second half.
And that shift was in the back of the defense's mind, Serrano said.
"On some occasions, they would throw the ball more than run it," he said. "We did pretty good on the pass except for a couple of plays, but we did what we could and shut down the pass. Unfortunately, they were running it."
And they continued to do so, throwing the ball just two times in the second half and relying heavily on powerhouse fullback Devin Bisby, who ran the ball 10 times in the second half, averaging about five yards per carry, including on a late 15-play drive that took a critical seven minutes off the clock.
"They ate away the clock and ran," he said. Serrano "They did what they needed to do."
NOTES: The night wasn't devoid of good play for the Warriors. The struggled to get consistent play from the whole unit, but got several nice plays from Jared Dolezal, who had four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Mueller, who had three catches for 58 yards.
Mueller would have the catch of the game, though, even though it was with the game essentially over. With about four minutes left, Motal threw deep over the middle for Dolezal. The ball was tipped up into the air and Mueller dove, grabbing before it hit the ground for a 34-yard gain.
He said it was because he refused to go quietly with the game out of reach.
"I was just going to finish hard, I guess that was it," he said. "I was in the right place at the right time. It was luck."