September 9, 2021
By Greg SelberClick here for select game photos
His mind was filled with memories on Thursday, before and after the joyous ice bucket bath he received for his first victory as Bobcat coach. And he was making some new ones.
Rene Guzman can remember his first game and seasons as a coach with Weslaco East back in the day, when the Wildcats were just getting started and took their lumps, winning very seldom indeed. He also recalls the first game after he became the DC at East, a blowout loss to Rio Hondo that he still jokes about today, it was so bad.
Then there’s his time as a player at EHS, the alma mater he has finally returned to. Guzman suffered a series of injuries which sidelined him for the better part of two seasons. He finally got back onto the field for the Bobcats as a senior.
“Yes, I can say that I have gone through some adversity along the way, and I make sure to remind the kids of that from time to time,” said Guzman, whose club had just bashed its way through a hapless Juarez-Lincoln unit for a 48-0 win that made it 1-2 overall, 1-0 in District 31-6A.
“This is sort of surreal really, still, but being able to come up with a win here makes me really feel like I am actually here, coaching at Edinburg High,” Guzman commented. “These kids have had to transition from one coach to another, my hat’s off to them. To the staff too, they have had to roll with the changes, and I am just proud of everyone here tonight.”
There were smiles all around after this one, hugs and backslaps, because after two narrow results had gone against them to start the season, the ‘Cats needed a boost. The schedule makers had a hand in the affair, as Lincoln is struggling through perhaps the darkest hour in the program’s brief 12-year history. Truly, it wasn’t about the quality of the foe, but more about a group of ‘Cats playing hard, coming back from losses, and learning to win, gradually. The process, as it were.
“We came close twice, we were right there,” said Guzman of defeats suffered at the hands of McAllen and Brownsville Rivera, the latter coming on the road last week by two. “You shoot for perfection and you fall to excellence, and right now, we are far from perfection. But this night is special and I told the kids that; they know how I feel about it. We’ve got a lot of work ahead, cleaning up the things we are doing, but right now, I want everyone to enjoy this victory for a little while. It feels great!”
CHANCES LOST AND GAINED
It started off like it would be a great night as the Huskies fumbled the opening kickoff and junior Dominic Luevano was there for the recovery at the enemy 21. This began a pattern for the game, as EHS started possession inside the 50 five times in the first half, mainly due to a defensive unit that yielded a beyond puny 24 total yards. Bringing echoes of those rock-ribbed D’s of the mid 1980s, the ‘Cats pulled off an amazing feat, not allowing a single first down the entire night … Repeat: not one first down for Lincoln. Incredible.
But another early pattern was not so nice for EHS and that was the tendency to: 1 not take full advantage of the short field, and 2 to have big plays nullified by penalty.
To wit, after the game-starting turnover, the ‘Cats ran four plays before fumbling the pig back to the Huskies, inside the 10. On their second drive of the night, a holding flag and delay of game set up a fourth and 16; senior QB Rolando Abrego’s swing pass to junior Jacob Gonzalez produced the unlikely conversion but a penalty canceled the gain, leading to a punt.
After holding the visitor to another three-and-out, Edinburg proceeded to get into the end zone, but only after an earlier TD on the drive had been wiped out by an infraction. The drive included a fourth-down conversion scoot by Abrego (66 yards rushing, 11 of 13 passing in a very sharp performance) and eventually, a 12-yard run around right end from senior Dylan Garza, the first of two scores the little flier would contribute. Thus, at 1:54 the ‘Cats were up 7-0, with Guzman perhaps grumbling a bit that it wasn’t 21-0 by now.
After suffering an interception late in the first, EHS got it back again, as the defense was giving Lincoln fits and the kicking game for the Huskies was exceedingly poor, from snap to kick. It was senior Aleksander Trevino who got the crew going in the right direction, as he roared in to block a punt early in the second. Taking the ball at the Lincoln 20, EHS got bogged down and had it not been for an alert moment from junior WR Raul Ramirez (he got on a teammate’s fumble to save possession), burly kicker Jonathan Sanchez would not have knocked across a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 advantage at 7:42.
With swarming defensive effort, EHS again forced a punt and it was Abrego starring now, sailing a perfect pass downfield to a racing Rivers Martinez. The junior hauled it in and made the end zone from 37 yards out at 5:23. Would the floodgates now open in full glory?
Yes and no, as Guzman’s O soon set up shop at the Lincoln 33, only to see a touchdown called back on a pass to quick junior Noel Serna (74 yards rushing Thursday as the team collected a healthy 287 on 51 carries). Down the road, though, the home side recovered from the miscue to get in again, Abrego floating in untouched from the 3 with three minutes to go before the half.
Guzman will no doubt be pleased at his team’s scoring punch in the quarter, as the ‘Cats rolled to 24 points in the second, the final score coming on another jaunt around the end from Garza, this time from 9 yards out, a minute before the break.
Abrego used his resources well against the Huskies, finding seven different pairs of hands, Martinez (four grabs for 68 yards) leading the parade. And it was Abrego who came on in relief of Abrego in the second half, when the die was long cast, to go 4 for 4 passing and chip in 50 yards rushing on five carries. That would, of course, be sophomore Ryen Abrego, the younger brother, who was impressive in his stint of action and is part of a strong cast of underclassmen that Guzman and Co. will be counting on in days to come. He’s the physical antithesis of Roly, is Ryen, stocky where his older sibling is lanky, but he appears to have something to offer to the squad already.
Before the Other Abrego came in, though, his role model cranked another short TD run for a 38-0 lead in the third, backing a 75-yard march and coming on fourth down. Abrego is a confident runner who can take a lick, and with pretty nifty moves for a QB, he can often avoid contact with a slick twist and juke. Which the coaches like, btw.
Midway through the half, Trevino again barreled in to block a punt, and senior Ryhan Gudino nearly scooped and scored, getting to the Lincoln 5 before being apprehended. From there, though, more headaches as the ‘Cats committed two fouls and had to settle for another field goal from Sanchez, who was clean with six straight PAT’s to go with his twin three-point boots, the second coming from 32 yards out.
Toward the end of the historic event, the new Abrego led the club down for the final tally, a 4-yard run from junior Rolando del Bosque, and the whipping was complete.
Guzman engaged in the accustomed round of postgame jawing with the assembled media types, and then spoke a bit further about what it all adds up to.
“We’re getting there, and we need to, because we’re into district now,” said the ex EHS DB, who will guide his ‘Cats into a City Rivalry encounter with Econ next Friday. “I have faced my share of adversity to get here, and I told the kids that they need to enjoy tonight but get ready to work. You learn from doing, from making mistakes and correcting mistakes.
“Everyone has to learn what their role on the team is, embrace it, and know they’re part of a team. Everyone is going to get his chance, I can tell you that.”