EL PASO- In a game that featured explosive offenses, it was the defenses who shined in the second half as El Paso Montwood held off a late Pebble Hills rally to defat the Spartans 49-46 in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 12,000 at the Socorro ISD Student Activities Complex. clinch a share of the District 1-6A title.
“There was so much on the line tonight from a district championship and a home playoff game,” said Montwood head coach Ariel Famaligi, “I’m proud of our team that we got the job done. Best of luck to Pebble Hills, they gave us a hell of a game.”
The Rams started hot out of the gates as quarterback Andrew Fernandez threw a strike to Tyreese Andrus for a 72-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. This would only be the start of the offensive onslaught.
Pebble Hills took a different approach, marching methodically down the field with a 14-play, 76- yard touchdown pass from Orlando Puig to Haredt Gonzalez to tie the game. The Spartans would strike quickly as running back Caleb Gerber ran for one of his four touchdowns on the night from 25-yards out after a fumbled kickoff from Montwood.
The Montwood defense would go to work. After an interception from Andrew Sevilla, Fernandez would find Andrus again for an 18- yard touchdown. The senior wide receiver finished with seven catches for 181 yards and the two scores.
After another Gerber touchdown, Fernandez would add two more rushing touchdowns of 1 and 51 yards. Then, right before the half, the senior quarterback took over, heaving a 43-yard touchdown pass to Edward Garibay as time expired in the first half to make it 35-26 at the break.
“We had three receivers on the left side on that play,” Fernandez said of his long touchdown pass, “I saw Edward matched up one-on-one and credit to him, he made a great catch.”
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“Andrew was on a mission tonight,” Famaligi said, “I saw it in practice this week and he was not going to get beat tonight and let our team go down.”
As they had all night, the Spartans fought back and Gerber broke a run off for 80 yards and a score to open the second half and put Pebble Hills within two. Gerber would finish with 269 yards and four touchdowns on the nihgt. But, after another Fernandez touchdown run to Tury Cepeda, the turnover bug would bite Pebble Hills.
A fumbled kickoff from Pebble Hills would turn into more points as Fernandez ran in a 7-yard touchdown to make it 49-33 Montwood. After both teams gave each other the ball back with turnovers, it looked like the Rams would put it away early in the fourth. A missed field goal would give Pebble Hills new life as Gabriel Hijar would run in a touchdown with 7:33 left.
Gerber would add another touchdown run with 4:20 to go in the game and the Spartans would not go away. A Keshaun Cartwright interception would give Pebble Hills a chance to win the game.
The Montwood defense held strong, stuffing an Orlando Puig fourth down run to seal the win and at least a share of the title.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Famaligi said, “We’re known for our offense but I tell you what, they stepped up huge tonight and got the stops that we needed to.”
Fernandez would finish with 413 total yards and seven touchdowns as the senior continued to put together a remarkable senior year.
“It was a great game and a fun atmosphere to play in,” Fernandez said, “Hats off to Pebble Hills. They played great. The future is bright for both teams.”
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