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Oct. 5, 2020

By Greg Selber

The third quarter on the wane, the result safely in hand Thursday night, Damian Gonzalez took a minute to admire the picture his team was painting. Walking the sidelines fiddling with his headset, the North coach half-turned and said over his shoulder, “Hey, this is like we used to it back in the old days, isn’t it.”

Gonzalez was the offensive line coach a decade or so ago for Roy Garza’s perennial playoff squads at North, and his hogs were physical, keying a ground game which gashed out holes for such running stars as Oscar Hernandez and Marco Adriana. These days, the horse is Jean Carlo Reyes, and the Cougar front, headed by aggressive three-sport man Jacob Paez at center, is doing some convincing impressions of the North lines of old.

The Coogs blasted off on Econ Thursday, taking a 14-0 halftime lead and then scoring twice in each subsequent quarter to salt away a pleasing 42-6 triumph for its second victory in three 2020 starts. Next is a monumental clash with ancient rival EHS, and right now, Gonzalez and his team are very excited about the challenge ahead.

“We are finally getting into condition, and it shows,” said the coach, whose defensive unit has also been excellent so far. “As we have gotten into shape the coaches have been able to put more stuff in. We were pretty reserved the first two games but now we are opening it up somewhat, putting in packages. Bottom line, the kids are enjoying these games, they are happy to go out and play football again. And we’re looking good so far.”


As the Homecoming Night began for North, the offense took command with a 9-play, 69-yard drive that led to a 6-yard romp from Reyes, who picked up 65 yards in the win. The march was aided by two key mistakes from the Jags, who dropped to 0-3 with the defeat. A defensive holding call in the secondary was one, and an offside call turned a North 4th-and-5 snap into a first down to keep the momentum going.

The Orange was ready to compete, though, and answered with a 32-yard catch from senior Cody Salas, son of Econ assistant coach (and former North QB) Raul Salas, to set up the tying drive. But after a first down at the Coog 13, the try stalled due and the Jags missed a field goal. 

Coach Gabe Pena’s club threatened again soon after, but a key third down ended in a tackle for loss by Coog corner Irving Roman, and yet a third Jag opportunity down the road – they got the ball at the 50 after a poor punt – yielded nothing. The East Siders had their chances in the first half, but could not cash them in. Different story if they do.

The Coogs meanwhile increased their lead to 14-0 late in the second period after a swerving 48-yard touchdown run from sleek QB Michael Rodriguez, who had a great night upon his return from an injury, completing 8 of 11 balls for 138 yards, scoring thrice on the ground.

After the half, North kept coming, producing another 79-yard drive for a 21-0 advantage. Senior receiver Miguel Contreras rushed four times for 40 yards Thursday as the offense unveiled more Jet Sweep, to ample benefit. He scooted 23 yards on the opening march of the quarter and soon, Rodriguez had slipped in from the 2 at 9:02. A pass interference flag on Econ had moved the ball from the 16 to the 2, by the by.

Then the Jags struck, however as Nathan Garcia fired three straight darts for a total of 41 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to Adrian Garcia at 4:51. Garcia the former has been a consistent passer thus far despite the loss of deep threat Victor Salinas to injury. In three games, he has amassed 397 yards with four scores in the air, though the Econ rushing game has subsided, from 166 yards in the opener against Pharr North, to 124 against EHS, and only 66 Thursday.

The Jags were valiant in attempts to establish the running game against the Coogs, but Gonzalez’ defense was not interested, holding the enemy to 2.6 yards per carry. Linebackers Daniel Rodriguez and Justin Cappadona were killers in the game, the latter contributing eight tackles.

Truth was, the Jags could not get out of their own way at times Thursday. To wit, directly after their touchdown they committed a personal foul infraction on the kickoff, setting up a quick five-play excursion after which North went up, 28-6. Rodriguez hit a big one to Yahir Rodriguez for 33 yards and later, Jose Suares was on the spot with a deft fielding of a tipped ball that registered a 12-yard touchdown at 2:44 of the third.

Cappadona then broke in to block a punt, thanks in part to a low and faulty snap that grazed the green at Richard R. Flores Stadium. Starting at the Orange 23, North bulldozed to a 35-6 lead with another Rodriguez score. It later added a final tally on a 17-yard scamper from Mark Hernandez, who amazed his friends on the sideline with a vintage, though brief, pop-lock-jam-break dance move celebrating his moment of glory.

For the outing, North compiled 354 yards and limited Econ to 188, staying turnover free and holding the Jags to just 10 first downs. Yahir Rodriguez had a solid night with two catches, plus five late runs for 44 yards. 

The leader of the Econ defense was once again rugged linebacker Raul Aguilar, who lunch-pailed his way to 12 tackles while promising sophomore LB Uriel Gamez turned in 10. The program looks to right the ship with a Friday road game at P-SJ-A against the 1-2 Bears, while Thursday brings the much anticipated EHS-North battle, obviously at home.

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