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Unsung defense makes most of Warriors first game

Sept. 6, 2010 at 4:06 a.m.


VICTORIA WEST WARRIORSSeason leadersPASSING: Kyle Motal (21-9-229-2 TD)

RUSHING: Chris Franklin (17-189-2 TD)

RECEIVING:

Seth Harrison (4-130-1 TD)

KICKING:

Felipe Bastida (1-1 FG, 4-5 PAT)

VICTORIA EAST TITANSSeason leadersPASSING: Ervin Yates (18-14-362-1 TD)

RUSHING: Johnathan Garner (18-229-2 TD)

RECEIVING:

Josh McClure (6-170-1 TD)

KICKING:

Joel Gonzales (15-17 PAT)

Leonard McAngus had to do something.

Victoria West had spent the better part of the second half in control. The offense had marched up and down the field, and the defense had held San Antonio Brackenridge's high-octane spread offense to just seven early points through three quarters.

But now, with four minutes left, that momentum had slipped away.

An onside kick to junior receiver E.J. Simmons had resulted in a horrific pileup at midfield, one that left Simmons with a season-ending knee injury and the Eagles with the ball.

But perhaps worse was the 10-minute delay, a tense series of moments with Simmons on the field in visible pain as EMTs tended to him. Many of the Warriors players appeared shaken by the incident.

It took two plays for the Eagles to score. After the offense sputtered in a similar fashion. On third down, the West coach needed to remind his players that this was no time to roll over.

"One of the things we talked to them before game is that we want to be able to count on you and you need to be able to count on the guys next to you," he said. "E.J. went down with what I think is going to be a really serious injury, and he wanted the kids to know that he's there and he's for them and he's with them.

"I thought it was really important that they know that."

The words seemed to help.

West converted the third down, and the drive would culminate with a dramatic fourth-and-goal conversion from quarterback Kyle Motal to Josh Valdez for the final, clinching touchdown.

The story of Friday's Warriors 39-28 victory over Brackenridge wasn't of the one-man show, or one player being overwhelmingly dominant.

Rather, it was of players who stepped up, of unsung heroes who put together strong performances to emphasize that they are better than the fifth place District 30-4A finish the magazines arbitrarily placed them in.

Quarterback Kyle Motal, who was filling in for an injured Jared Dolezal, was elusive in the back field, dodging several attempted sacks and keeping drives alive.

Out of nowhere came running back Chris Franklin, a sophomore who won the top job and excelled with 189 yards rushing.

"When you can run the football, everything else seems to be better," McAngus said.

But for much of the game, it was the defense. Three sacks, two turnovers forced to end successive third quarter drives and stellar stops when they needed them.

It was a matchup, though, that produced some doubts.

Much of the defensive strategy focused on turning Brackenridge into a one-dimensional team, and a lot of the focus was on wide receiver Gabriel Taylor, a lanky 6-foot-7 speedster.

But McAngus said the focus for the defense was to stop the running game.

"They do run the football, but they want to throw it to (Taylor), but we need to make sure we stop the run first," he said. "The focus will always be to stop the run."

The Eagles ran into a wall when trying to run the ball. Literally. The defensive line that held Brackenridge's runners to 148 yards on a staggering 40 attempts.

McAngus thought it could be a favorable one. The Eagles are a young team, having two major offensive threats move on to Division 1 football programs.

There was one problem.

"It would if we weren't so young ourselves," McAngus said on Thursday. "It's going to be a tough fought game. I have all the confidence in the world in our kids, but they're not just going to come up here and lay down."

They didn't either.

After spending most of the game struggling to move the ball at all, Brackenridge seized momentum in the fourth to the tune of 21 points, much of it set up by a passing game that suddenly found its rhythm.

McAngus said he was proud of the poise his team showed when faced with tough situations throughout the game.

"There were bad things that happened in this thing, and we came back and made good things happen," he said.

But that isn't to say that the defense doesn't need to continue to improve.

"We gave up a couple of touchdowns late, some of them were from breakdowns in our secondary," he said. "It's a learning deal, we're still young."

Much of the damage Brackenridge imposed was when it stretched the field in the air, getting 304 yards in the air. The Eagles passing game never completed a pass for less than 12 yards.

That is, when they completed one.

Eagles quarterback Anthony Garza finished just 8-for-25 passing, including a streak of 13 incomplete passes.

For the Warriors, it's one of 10 games.

"You can't think about it very long, you got to move on," he said.

The coach said he would be in at 5:30 the following morning to look at video, with the players in at 8 a.m. to review.

By 9 a.m., the Warriors will have this game in their rearview mirror.

"But it's a whole lot easier when you win," he said.

EAST DOMINATES: Scoring four touchdowns and ending the game in the first quarter may become the norm for the Titans.

While West was fighting for everything they got against the Eagles, Victoria East was cruising to another blowout victory, led by another 28-point performance in the first quarter.

And it isn't just the offense that's doing it. The Titans defense is forcing turnovers early and often three last week against Harlingen South, and another three on Friday against Kingsville.

John Hornberg is a sports reporter for the Advocate, covering Victoria East and West. Contact him by e-mail at jhornberg@vicad.com, or comment at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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