William Garley did all he could to make sure his final home opener at Victoria East was a memorable one.

Garley rushed for a team-high 193 yards against Gregory-Portland, but the end result was one he’d rather forget.

The Titans committed 12 penalties in a 29-7 loss to the Wildcats on Friday at Memorial Stadium.

“We have to keep our head up and not let it affect us,” Garley said. “We have to stay together and come out next game.”

The Wildcats (2-0) struck first early on a 3-yard touchdown run by Kaleem Gholsby and followed with an 18-yard field goal by Nathan Bowden seven minutes later.

East (0-2) drove to the 12-yard line on its first possession but was unable to score. Three possessions later, the Titans reached the red zone again but failed to convert after back-to-back penalties and a fumble.

Gregory-Portland took advantage by scoring on a Jeremy Barker 9-yard touchdown pass to Jude Wiggins to give the Wildcats a 16-0 halftime lead.

“We had a lot to overcome in this game,” said East head coach Roland Gonzalez. “The main thing I can say is I’m proud of these young men. They stayed together, and we got better from last week.”

Junior Latavian Johnson got the start at quarterback for East and showed signs of success.

Johnson rushed for 55 yards on nine carries. He also passed for 60 yards.

But Ethan White returned to quarterback to start the fourth quarter and threw four passes for 48 yards – including the Titans’ lone touchdown on a 28-yard pass to Koby Levigne with 7 minutes left in the game.

“It’s a good learning experience for us,” said Levigne, who caught five passes for 79 yards. “We need to take all the information we lacked and use it to get better and learn from our mistakes. I feel like we’re a smart enough team to get things done.”

The Wildcats were led by quarterback Jeremy Barker, who passed for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

Gregory-Portland did the majority of its damage through the air but still managed to rush for 90 yards.

“We came out here trying to show our best, but we got hurt in the passing game,” said East linebacker Trent Zappe. “We can get better as a team, but we need to work hard. This game doesn’t tell our future; it’s just one game.”

The Titans also started 0-2 last season before going on a five-game winning streak.

East will hope for similar success this season but will only have a week to prepare with District 15-5A, Division I play set to begin next Friday at Corpus Christi Miller, a 51-9 winner over Sinton.

“Miller has athletes all over the field, so we’re going to have to put together a good game plan,” Gonzalez said. “I have no doubt our guys are going to come out prepared and perform well.”

Rey Castillo is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached at rcastillo@vicad.com, 361-574-1240 or on Twitter @reycastillo361.

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