PHOTO / CHARLES CARLSON

As Shelton Luedke (11) tackled Crystal City ball carrier Martin Lopez, the ball popped loose and JoJo Tapia recovered for the Owls. It was one of five takeaways for the Hondo defense. 

PHOTO / CHARLES CARLSON

Tate Fitzpatrick steps out of a would-be tackler’s grasp in the Owls’ 24-6 win on Friday. 

PHOTO / CHARLES CARLSON

The Owl defense – with Paul Arredondo (17), Jayden Gallardo (1) and Sebastian Lopez (32) converging – bottled up the Javelinas.

PHOTO / CHARLES CARLSON

Aaron Ledesma nabs a fourth quarter interception for Hondo.

Owls’ early lead enough to get a win

 

By Jeff Berger

Anvil Herald Publisher

 

     Hondo started fast Friday night, Nov. 8, and then essentially went into a four-corners offense for much of the night.

     With some key personnel nursing a few nagging injuries, and with a playoff matchup coming this week, the Owls kept things close to the vest, and finished with a 24-6 win over Crystal City on Senior Night at Barry Field.

     Next up, the Owls (5-5 season, 4-1 district) enter the bi-district playoffs as the runner-up from District 14-4A-II. And, by virtue of two winning coin flips, Hondo will host Bandera this Friday, Nov. 15, in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Barry Field. 

     Pregame ticket sales will run through Friday at noon  in the HISD Central Office. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for students. All tickets at the gate are $7.

     Friday’s strategy went pretty much as planned, according to head coach Brett Ratliff. “We played a really solid first half, with a lot of energy,” he said. “Our objective was to put the opponent away, and while really didn’t do that, we were always in control of the game.

“The defense continued to play very well, just as they have the last three weeks. We have to keep that trend going this week,” he added, alluding to a high-powered Bandera offense which will be visiting on Friday night.

     Hondo got a fast start with exceptional field position. A shanked opening kickoff sliced right to Hondo’s Jarrette Martinez, playing the front row, who returned it across midfield to the Crystal 48. That established a night-long trend of outstanding field position for the Owls. For the night, Hondo’s average starting field position was the CC 38-yard line.

     In six plays, the Owls were in the endzone. Brandon J. Garcia passed 10 yards to Kaden Lentz and Tate Fitzpatrick had a run of 12 yards, setting up JoJo Tapia’s 11-yard dash for the score. Brandon R. Garcia added the PAT for a 7-0 lead, with just 88 seconds gone in the game.

     The Javelinas, with a methodical ground-base attack, began at their own 10 after an illegal block penalty on the kickoff. The second play, a 45-yard run by quarterback Nathaniel Mata was also called back because of a hold. After 12 plays, CC had picked up three first downs, but still hadn’t reached the 50. A tackle by Shelton Luedke in the backfield put the Javelinas behind the chains and they eventually lined up to punt.

     Tapia went untouched up the middle, blocking Mata’s punt, fielding it on the bounce at the 29, and racing in for the Owls’ second TD and a 14-0 lead, still in the opening quarter.

     The blocked punt TD ran the Owls’ streak of games with non-offensive touchdowns to six in a row.

     The Hondo defense took over. Stops by Jayden Gallardo and Mason Bragdon, along with a Luedke pass breakup, forced a three-and-out. Following an exchange of punts, Luedke caused a fumble at the CC 24, which Tapia recovered.

     After getting inside the 10, a holding penalty backed the Owls out, and the Javelinas’ Jay Ruiz intercepted a Garcia pass at the 1. Mata again broke loose, this time going 98 yards to the endzone, but again, it was a holding penalty which sprung him loose. The drive eventually reached the 40, but a Bragdon sack led to a 4th-and-17. 

     The Owls’ special teams stepped up again, pressuring the punter into running with the ball, where Tyler DeLeon and Greg Guerra dropped him in the backfield.

     This time, the field position paid off. Starting at the 32 with 2:34 left in the half, the Owls needed seven plays to find the endzone. The last four carries were Garcia keepers, with the TD coming from the 1-yard line with 24.9 seconds left in the half. 

     CC began the second half near midfield after a good kickoff return, but promptly fumbled it away, with Sebastian Lopez recovering for the Owls. Fitzpatrick went 28 yards on first down, Hondo’s longest play from scrimmage of the night, but the drive stalled and the Owls gave it up on downs.

     Starting at their 29, the Javelinas put together their lone scoring drive, crossing midfield for the only time in the game. The Javelinas went 71 yards in 12 plays, with Justin Bonilla scoring from the 4, with 2:51 left in the third. The extra point attempt was no good.

While the offense was going nowhere, the Hondo defense had takeaways on CC’s next three possessions. Paul Arredondo recovered a fumble, while Aaron Ledesma and Luedke intercepted passes on the next two drives.

     After the second pick, Hondo earned its only first down of the fourth quarter on a Fitzpatrick run, but a hold backed the Owls up once more. Playing to get close enough for a BR Garcia field goal attempt, then Owls got another 10-yard carry from Fitzpatrick, and Garcia came in to connect on a 39-yard attempt with 1:26 left to play, bring the score to its final of 24-6. He had come up short on a 42-yard FG attempt earlier in the quarter.

     The game ended with Guerra and Journey Rodriguez sacking Mata on the final play.