EL PASO — It may not have been the prettiest game, but all that matters at the end is a win. That’s what the Bowie Bears (4-3, 1-3) was able to do Friday night as they held off the El Paso High Tigers (3-4, 1-3) by a score of 19-16 at Baty-Simmang Memorial Stadium. It was a highly charged game that saw a combined 23 penalties on Friday night and a postgame scuffle between the two teams.
“Our message is that we need to know how to win and when to walk way when it’s enough,” Bowie head coach Robert Padilla said after the scuffle, “Whatever was said is irrelevant. We just need to be able to walk away when the game is over.”
In a game where both teams tend to control the ball, both defenses held serve in the opening quarter as they held each other scoreless. But it was the Bowie Bears who struck first, controlling the ball and taking it down the field 61 yards capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Joseph Ponce to make it 7-0 Bears.
The Tigers responded with a good drive of their own, mainly off the strong runs from running back Shane Rodriguez. El Paso High kicker Cristobal Nunez knocked in a 29-yard field goal to make it 7-3 Bowie. Ponce would be picked off by starting quarterback and defensive back Anthony Escobedo late in the first half. But, as they did to start the game, the Bears were able to turn over El Paso High on downs inside their own territory to keep the game at 7-3 at halftime.
The third quarter was dominated by special teams miscues. A bad punt snap and short kick by Bowie put the Tigers in great field position inside the Bear 40. The Tigers took advantage quickly with a 27-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez. A bad snap on the extra point caused the Tigers to fall short and get points out of it to keep the score 9-7. Rodriguez finished with 19 carries
With Bowie’s offense stuck in neutral, the special teams came through for the Bears as a 27-yard field goal attempt halfway through the third quarter was blocked. Bowie pounded the ball on the ground and eventually broke through with a 26-yard run by Jacob Marrufo touchdown run to give Bowie a 13-9 at the end of the third quarter.
El Paso High responded with a bang, riding Rodriguez for 68 yards on one drive that ended with his second touchdown run of the night early in the fourth quarter. Rodriguez finished with 19 carries, 170 yards and two scores on the night.
But again, when Bowie needed it the most, someone stepped up. Linebacker Ricardo Valles came in on fourth down and one and burst through the left side for a 41-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 19-16 lead. The Bears finished with 209 yards rushing as a team on Friday.
Valles, who primarily starts at linebacker, ran for 58 yards in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Bowie, a fumble by Valles on fourth down and a targeting penalty late in the game dampened a strong effort.
“He did everything right except the one play that he got penalized for,” Padilla said, “He’s been our rock this season and we wouldn’t be anywhere without him and the defense.”
El Paso High had one final chance to strike, but a costly false start penalty on fourth down inside the Bowie 30 impacted the play call for the Tigers as Bowie broke up an Escobedo pass to seal the game. More importantly, it keeps Bowie alive to clinch a sixth straight playoff season, an accomplishment never done before in school history.
“It was a must-win game for a lot of different reasons,” Bowie head coach Robert Padilla said following the win, “We had gone almost a month with a win and this game really boosted our spirits. “Our program really needed a boost.”
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