BATTLE FOR THE SWORD MVP: Ortega's 7 TDs big for East
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As he walked off the field in Portland after another loss on Oct. 5, Jonathan Ortega said Victoria East had to play better if they wanted to win football games.
The sophomore backed up those words with a seven-touchdown performance Friday night in a 54-58 victory over Victoria West.
His four passing touchdowns, three rushing scores and 463 offensive yards were why he is the Victoria Advocate's Battle for the Sword MVP.
"J.O. you know he's going to put on a show once he gets the ball," said East linebacker Albert Longoria Jr. "That's just what he does. He's just a playmaker. You have to give it to him."
Victoria East football coach Roland Gonzalez said the sophomore brings an infectious confidence to the Titans. It was a conversation Gonzalez had with Ortega, previously an all-purpose back, Monday afternoon that may have changed the tenor of the Titans season.
"I came in and coach called me into his office," Ortega recalled Friday. "He said you're playing quarterback this week and you're going to run the ball a lot. I was like 'OK.'"
Through six games, East quarterbacks averaged 20.8 carries per game. Friday, Ortega ran 29 times for 181 yards. Through the air, he was 14-22 for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
Throughout the night, the sophomore said he read the West linebackers. "If they stepped up, I threw it. If they didn't step up, I ran it."
Afterward, West linebacker Chaz Johnson said his team wasn't expecting Ortega to be the focal point of the offense.
"He's just fast and we just weren't ready for that," Johnson said. "He came out tonight and did his thing as a sophomore and I'll give it to him."
Entering Friday's game, Mark Cavazos started the first six games of the season at quarterback for Victoria East. He accounted for more than 82 percent of the Titans' offensive yards.
Friday, Cavazos, accounted for 37 total yards, as he was moved to wide receiver. He had one catch for 13 yards, which extended what wound up being a 15-play, 85-yard drive that took 8:45 off the clock midway through the fourth quarter.
Afterward, Cavazos said he wanted to do anything to help his team win. He welcomed the move to wide receiver, a position he played earlier in his career and practiced at earlier this season.
Cavazos' efforts did not go unnoticed.
"We came out today coach (Brian) Null told us that's the best we've ever looked in warm-ups," Ortega said. "They showed it today. Everyone blocked. I wouldn't have scored if it wasn't for my line or my receivers."
Cameron Williams was one of those receivers. The sophomore caught six passes for 125 yards and his first two varsity touchdowns Friday night.
Williams played with Ortega on the Titans' freshmen team last year. It was that experience that allowed them to get comfortable playing with each other. He said as the sophomores continue to mingle with the upperclassmen, the future looks bright.
"He's a great athlete, probably the best athlete on the team, by far," Williams said. "He can run, he can throw, he can catch and pretty much do everything. Having him at quarterback was a big asset to the team."