East Titans have come to play this season
Aug. 29, 2010 at 3:29 a.m.
There was optimism among Victoria East fans and those in the press box at Memorial Stadium on Friday evening before the game.
For the Titans, win or lose, it was their chance in the spotlight.
But few expected the performance they saw in the first seven minutes of the game. Or in the other 41.
The Titans jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game, helped by a combination of a strong running game, careless turnovers by Harlingen South and no opposing defense.
And they approached it cool and business-like, said Titans coach Mickey Finley.
"These kids have handled things well; they were very very right on today," he said. "All day long, they were very serious, they knew what they wanted to do, and it showed when we came out.
"We were ready to play. It was just an explosion, and the game hadn't even started. It's a great way for them to be."
By the third quarter, it was apparent to those in the coaches' booths and the press box the game was out of hand.
"This is a basketball score!" exclaimed someone from one of the coaches boxes down the hall.
The 76-35 final score was a significant statement for a team several picked against before the game. The reporter from the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen was stunned. Before the game, he had a prediction - 31-10, Harlingen South wins.
Never mind the circumstances: the Hawks were 0-10 last year, and most of East's players were from the 5A level just one year earlier.
He wasn't the only one. Finley had told his players that they were underdogs going into the game.
"They were expected to beat us by four points, but we just came out here, and apparently we were a better team," said running back Johnathan Garner.
Who had picked against them?
"Media ... we were a four-point underdog," Garner said. He wasn't sure which outlet.
The Titans played with confidence, but Finley wasn't sure his team needed the prediction against them as a motivating factor.
"I don't know if they pay much attention to that, but we felt like it would be a much closer ball game than it was," he said. "We felt like we could move the ball pretty well on them, and we felt like we could do some things defensively.
"The game plan just worked, and that's a big thing for us."
For East, it was a chance to show what it was capable of doing. Finley had said before the season that people were arbitrarily picking against his team without knowing anything about them.
"They don't know anything about us, and they don't know anything about West," he said before the season began, referring to the two sets of rankings that had East finishing third and fourth respectively in district.
"They don't have a clue what we've got or what West's got, and there's no reason why both team's shouldn't be extremely competitive."
But the numbers against Harlingen South say a lot. Their 76-point performance is two touchdowns more than any Memorial team put up against an opponent (The Vipers beat Corpus Christi Moody on Oct. 14, 2005, 62-14, the only time they scored more than 60 points in their decade-long history.)
The Titans accumulated 602 yards of total offense, with Ervin Yates, in his first game at quarterback, accumulating 296 total yards, 106 on the ground and 190 in the air. Two others, Garner and running back Roderick Warren, also had more than 100 yards rushing each.
So what does this all mean for East and its future opponents?
"We came to play," Garner said. "That's all I got to say."
WEST PREPARES: The day before the Titans pounded Harlingen South, Victoria West was supposed to hold its final scrimmage against Ingleside.
But that changed the night before.
"They canceled on us, apparently they've got some issues there," West coach Leonard McAngus said. "They called me late (Wednesday) night."
That left the Warriors without an opponent, so McAngus decided to mix it up a little bit. Instead of a traditional scrimmage of offense vs. defense, the team did a situational scrimmage, running through various scenarios on the field in front of a decent crowd.
"I think our kids came out and did a lot of good things," McAngus said. "We worked all different kind of situations to get them ready. I'd hate to be coming out from our one-yard line and never having even worked on it."
The Warriors were able to get in some scenarios that they may not have faced in a traditional scrimmage, McAngus said, and thought the team looked good.
"I thought we were pretty sharp considering the change we had to go through," he said. "We thought we were going to have an opponent and we didn't have one."
The Warriors open the season at home Friday against San Antonio Brackenridge. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.
STAT OF THE WEEK: It isn't any thing from the East stat sheet, but rather from Harlingen South's.
Hawks quarterback Bryan Avila opened the game 0-for-3 passing with two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns, which showed how dialed in the East defense was early on.
Avila finished 13-for-31 passing with two touchdowns before leaving early in the fourth quarter.
John Hornberg is a sports reporter for the Advocate, covering Victoria East and West. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment at VictoriaAdvocate.com.