By Luciano Guerra and John Hamann
Sharyland Pioneer and Mission High, the only two teams from the Big 7 to reach the postseason, both came away with opening round victories last night in their respective divisions.
Held scoreless and trailing by a touchdown going into the second quarter, the Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks scored three times before halftime and three more times in the second half to overcome a determined Medina Valley squad 42 – 23 at Richard Thompson Stadium in Mission Friday night in the opening round of the Class 5A – Div. II playoffs. The victory improves Pioneer to 6 – 0 on the season.
A short Eddie Lee Marburger run started the scoring for the Diamondbacks early in the second quarter and the senior signal caller added touchdown passes to Taylor Esparza and Joseph Graham Jr. to build a 21 – 7 lead. The second put Marburger at the top of the list in Valley history for career touchdown passes. A late Medina Valley score tightened things up at the half 21 – 14.
The Pioneer defense stepped things up to start the second half, recovering the Panthers onside kick to open the half and stopping a fake punt attempt on Medina Valley’s first second half possession. A big run from Tristan Castillo built the lead to 28 -14 but the Panthers came right back, getting deep into Pioneer territory before settling for a field goal late in the quarter. Marburgers’ second rushing score of the night pushed the lead to 35 – 17 early in the fourth before the teams traded scores to end the night. Castillo scored his second touchdown of the night on a short run to complete the scoring for Pioneer.
“Hats off to our running backs tonight,” said Pioneer coach Tom Lee. “They ran the ball extremely well.” Besides the scoring runs from Marburger and Castillo, Esparza had an effective night running through the holes opened up by his offensive line.
Lee complimented the third quarter efforts of his defense as well. “Those (stops) are things we have to have happen in a game,” said Lee. “Anytime we get those stops like that; we hold them to three points instead of seven ; it just gives our offense a chance . . . we get those double digit leads and it makes it harder for the other team to do what they want to do.”
Next up for Pioneer is a match –up with Marble Falls who advanced with a 27 – 24 victory over Brenham. Details of that game are still being worked out.
Across town at Tom Landry Stadium the Eagles used three scoring runs from Jeremy Duran and another from Andrew Maldonado to defeat the San Benito Greyhounds 27 – 18 in a Class 6A – Div. I contest. The win improved the Eagles to 5 – 1 on the year and marked the first career playoff victory for Eagles head coach Koy Detmer.
Duran got the Eagles on the board first but the Greyhounds tied it up 7 – 7 seconds later when the Eagles kickoff was returned for a touchdown.
The Eagles took the lead for good in the second quarter on Duran’s second short scoring run, set up by a pass from Duran to Gilberto Bernal.
The Eagles extended their lead to 20 – 7 on the opening possession of the second half with Maldonado’s short run. The drive was highlighted by receptions from Jose Ortiz and Jose Cortez, both of whom made big yards on passes from Duran.
San Benito closed the gap to ten with a field goal but the Eagles answered quickly with long pass completions from Duran to both Cortez and Bernal to go up 27 – 10 on Duran’s third score.
A Greyhounds touchdown and two point conversion early in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to nine closed the scoring for the night. San Benito had one final drive into Eagles territory but were forced back on a sack from Ezekiel Cuadros and failed to convert on fourth and long.
Detmer spoke after the game about overcoming the uncertainty of events created by COVID – 19 both during the regular season and into the post season. ‘”It was tough, it was tough,” said Detmer, “you never knew from one day to the next and you still don’t know and that’s what we tell the kids, “Don’t take for granted any practice (or) any game we get; make the most of all of it and enjoy the experience.”
For Detmer, that meant experiencing a playoff win as a coach for the Eagles after leading the school to several in his days as a player for the team in the early 1990’s.
“It was a lot of fun back then”, said Detmer. “We had a great experience . . . but it feels a lot more exciting when you are on the sideline coaching . . . you get all the emotion that way.”
Both Detmer and his team will get another chance to experience that excitement when they face Laredo United South in the second round of the playoffs sometime next week. Details of that game are still being worked out. South advanced via a forfeit in their first round game due to concerns over the virus.