Owls pull off unlikeliest of
comebacks to beat MV
By Jeff Berger
Anvil Herald Sports Editor
Castroville -- For three quarters – on paper at least
– it didn’t even appear that it should have been a game.
To that point, the Hondo Owls had only one first down, and only
10 yards of total offense.
But buried way down in the stat chart, with a number many
people probably don’t even look at, is that crazy figure of
return yards. Often, a team won’t have more than 20 in a game,
when totalling up the yardage on punt, interception and fumble
But on Friday, Sept. 12, at Panther Stadium, the Owls knocked
off Medina Valley with returns. Two third quarter grab-it-and-go
thefts (covering 20 and a coast-to-coast 99 yards) by the Hondo
defense resulted in 14 points, putting the Owls right back in the
game. That gave the offense all the spark it needed to put up two
fourth quarter touchdowns, capping an improbable 27-21 Hondo win.
This Friday, Sept. 19, the Owls return home for their
Homecoming game against Holy Cross. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our defense,” said Hondo
coach Jeff Rochat, who earned his first head coaching win over the
Panthers. “With our offense struggling, the score could have
been quite a bit worse, but our defense held them in check. It’s
more impressive when you figure that our defense was on the field
for two-thirds of the game.”
Hondo controlled the field position early in the game. After a
sack by Brad West and Hunter Eitze put MV into a long yardage
situation, Marquis Martinez got a hand on a Josh Sepulveda punt,
leaving the ball just past midfield.
Rick Moreno swept around left end for 11 yards and a first down
on the Owls’ opening play from scrimmage. That was it, however,
until their opening play of the fourth quarter.
After a punt, more defensive stops in the backfield, by Aaron
Oefinger and Wesley Rogge, and a batted pass from Moreno led to
another short MV punt.
Beginning at the Panther 40, Hondo still couldn’t get
anything going, and punted a second time.
This time, the MV offense got it in gear. Gambling on a
4th-and-1 at its own 29, the Panthers called on Kyle Moos, who
burst through the line and gained 18 yards. Added to the end of
the run was a 15-yard penalty against Hondo.
Zach Griggs ran for one first down, passed to Kenny Gallegos
for another, and then handed to Kristian Williams, who found the
endzone from the 4, with 1:18 left in the quarter. Ethan Hassinger
added the PAT for a 7-0 MV lead.
After an exchange of several three-and-outs, MV’s defense
created a break when Cody Moos intercepted a Carson Stoner pass.
Starting at their 45, the Panthers kept it on the ground for
nine plays, until, with a 4th-and-12 at the 16, Griggs found
Sepulveda in traffic in the back corner of the endzone. The pass
and extra point made it 14-0 heading to halftime.
The Owls opened the second half by punting for the fifth time.
Starting at their own 16, the Panthers ran Williams twice. On
2nd-and-8, the senior back plowed into the line for a couple of
yards, but as he was fighting for more, Moreno dashed into the
pile, swiped the ball and took it to the endzone 20 yards away.
Garrett Van Damme’s extra point made it a 14-7 game with 10:44
left in the third.
The Panthers got a Gallegos return to midfield on the kickoff
and went to work, moving the ball as crisply as they did all
night, due in large part to a Williams 32-yard run to the 9. At
the 2, the Owls were flagged for a personal foul, giving the
Panthers a 1st-and-goal at the 1.
Fullback Kyle Moos got the call, but was stopped at the line of
scrimmage by Cade Tanksley. Taking a cue from Moreno, outside
linebacker Oefinger hit the pile and wrestled the ball away from
Moos. Getting an escort from Martinez, who threw the block on the
final MV would-be tackler at about the Hondo 20, Oefinger went 99
yards for a touchdown. Van Damme’s kick tied the game at 14-14
with 7:44 left in the third.
The Panthers drove to Hondo territory, but a fourth down pass
at the 30-yard line fell incomplete.
Hondo punted it back. MV took over at its 38 and drove to the
endzone in 11 plays, scoring as the fourth quarter began on a
two-yard Williams run. MV led 21-14, as light rain began to fall.
Following the kickoff, Stoner found Willie Keilman deep on
first down. The senior receiver outraced the Panther defense for a
67-yard scoring reception. Van Damme’s kick with 11:10 left to
play tied the game at 21.
The teams exchanged two more punts, as the Panthers took over
at their 29 with 5:52 left. Moreno put a big hit on Williams,
jarring the ball loose, and Martinez recovered at the 34.
That window was all the Owl offense needed.
“I knew that if the defense could keep getting it done,”
said Coach Rochat, “we would find some life in our offense. They
stayed after it and found a way.”
Actually, the Owls gained an impressive 123 yards and picked up
five first downs in the fourth period.
Stoner passed to Rogge for a 13-yard gain, then on 2nd-and-9,
scrambled for 11 yards to the 9. On the next snap, the Owls ran a
hidden-ball handoff to Keilman who took it around left end
untouched for the score.
The extra point was wide left, leaving the margin at six points
with 4:30 to play.
“Our defense came through again,” said the coach. “They
still had enough left in the tank to stop their offense two more
Bradley Griggs, the starter heading into the season, saw his
first action since a preseason injury, guiding the Panthers to a
first down at the 50. But on third down, he was sacked for a
seven-yard loss by AJ Camacho. A 4th-and-17 pass was intercepted
by Keilman, who returned it 31 yards to the MV 43, with 2:58 left.
That brought the Owls’ return totals to 157 yards.
Stoner picked up one first down on the ground, but after a
fourth down pass attempt, which Javier Williams nearly pulled down
in the endzone, fell incomplete, the Panthers had one more shot,
with 73 seconds to drive 70 yards.
Bradley Griggs completed a pass to Jose Santos on the sidelines
for one first down, but a 3rd-and-10 pass was batted down by Heath
Runnels. A short pass set up a 4th-and-3, but one last attempt
“If that’s not a testament to our kids’ refusal to give
up,” said Coach Rochat, “I don’t know what you’d call it.”