EL PASO- In a game that featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, it can come down to just a handful of plays. That saying came true Friday night as El Paso Franklin got some big defensive stops in the second half and got a career-best game from running back Seth Dominguez en route to a 49-41 win over El Paso Eastwood at Cougar Stadium.
“Offensively, we just executed a lot better,” Franklin head coach Daren Walker said, “The defense rallied to the ball and made some good adjustments in the second half to get our kids in the right place. We’re real excited to get this win.
FIRST HALF FRENZY
El Paso Franklin would start quickly as the senior Dominguez ran 58 yards for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. That would not be all for him or the Cougars. After an Eastwood three-and-out. Matt Heifner found Joaquin Lozano for a 40-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 less than three minutes into the game.
“It was a great team win tonight,” Heifner said after making his career start, “That was a win against a good team and being able to bounce back like that gives us a good feeling.”
After a Ryan Minjarez 12-yard touchdown catch thrown by El Paso Eastwood quarterback Seth Ochoa, Franklin would strike quickly with a Heifner 25-yard touchdown pass to Khatib Lyles to make it 21-7.
The rest of the first half was dominated by two people: Minjarez of Eastwood and Dominguez of Franklin. Eastwood scored 21 unanswered points with a 2-yard touchdown run and touchdown receptions of 17 and 15 yards to give the Troopers a 28-21 lead.
But the Troopers had to deal with some major adversity. Quarterback Seth Ochoa was ejected from the game in the second quarter for arguing with a referee following a penalty. After an impressive first half going 13-of-18 for 180 yards and two touchdowns, his night was over.
In came sophomore quarterback Chris Castaneda, who had started the first two games for the Troopers. Castaneda was a perfect 10-for-10 for 131 yards and two touchdowns before halftime.
Dominguez didn’t take long to respond to Eastwood’s explosive offense, bursting through the middle for a 69-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 28. The senior finished with a career-high 316 yards on 26 carries.
“The way the game went back and forth was awesome,” Dominguez said, “but I have to give credit to the offensive line. They played really well tonight.”
Eastwood’s Minjarez would add his fifth touchdown of the half to make it 35-28 Troopers. He finished with 135 yards receiving and those five touchdowns.
STEPPING UP IN THE SECOND HALF
The second half proved to be much more methodical. Eastwood was stopped on fourth down on a six-minute drive and Heifner found Lozano again for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 35-34 Eastwood. Franklin took the lead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter, capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Heifner and a two-point conversion to make it 42-35.
But, Eastwood found a way to respond as Noah Rios caught a 69-yard pass from Castaneda to set up a two-yard touchdown run by the quarterback. Then, just as they did last year, head coach Julio Lopez gambled and went for two. And just like last year, the Troopers came up short.
The Cougars would get the score they needed, as Heifner found Gabe Stonewall on a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 49-41. The senior quarterback finished 7-of-13 for 137 yards and four touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.
And in the second half, the defense was able to finish the job. The Cougars stuffed Castaneda on a fourth and one from inside the Franklin 30 and after a punt return called back by a penalty, the Cougars defense sacked Castaneda one more time to put the game out of reach. Castaneda finished 17-of-27 for 270 yards, three total touchdowns and an interception.
“The defensive line played well,” Walker said, “It was a team effort as a whole, but they really stepped up.”
It had been tough week for his team after a disappointing performance at Pebble Hills. But after pulling out a close win, the team has a newfound confidence moving forward.
“Winning a game like this puts us back in a good position,” Dominguez said, “It gives us our confidence back after what happened last week.”
“Somewhere along the line, we just lost what we were doing,” Walker said, “We just got back to the basics. The kids wanted to play well after what happened against Pebble Hills and they wanted to protect their home field.”
Brought to you by: