EL PASO- One of the most explosive offenses in the state faces off against one of the best stories in Texas as El Paso Montwood (8-0, 5-0) takes on El Paso Pebble Hills (8-0, 5-0) in a battle for the top spot in District 1-6A. It’s the biggest game of the year in the Sun City but both teams are trying to focus on what lies ahead and the bigger picture.
“I think our team is battle tested,” said Montwood head coach Ariel Famaligi, “We’ve been in these big games before and with a senior-heavy football team, I think they’re used to handling big games and what’s expected of them.”
“There’s nothing that needs to be said to get these guys hyped up and ready to play,” said Pebble Hills head coach Mark Torres, “We’re ready to play physically and emotionally but we know we’re going up against an outstanding football team.”
Averaging more than 53 points and 567 yards of offense a game, the Montwood Rams have torched opponents all season long. Senior quarterback Andrew Fernandez has lit up defenses all season long, throwing for 2,340 yards and 36 touchdowns to go with just three interceptions.
His top target, Tyreese Andrus (1,060 yards, 17 TD), has also put up big numbers this season and the chemistry between quarterback and receiver has been a pivotal part of their success.
“It all starts with the offensive line giving me time in the pocket to make plays,” Fernandez said, “Our receivers are fantastic and our running backs have stepped up as well. I feel like we’re pretty balanced going into this game.”
The Rams also know they will face one of their biggest challenges defensively, going up against a Spartan defense only giving up just over 17 points a game and has forced 20 turnovers through their first eight games of the season.
“That defense hustles and gets after it,” Andrus said, “They’re very sound but we feel like that that we’ll be ready for them. It’s going to be a fight to the very end.”
“They create a lot of problems for offenses,” Famaligi said, “They do blitz effectively and cause havoc on the offensive line. Their overall team speed is also really impressive.”
That aggressive defense has been a big reason as to why the Spartans at 8-0, something that has surprised many in El Paso and across the state but not as much to the players.
“After finishing 2-8 last year, we had a chip on our shoulder,” said Pebble Hills linebacker Anthony Sapien, “We had something to prove and show people that we were better than our record showed. We’ve worked hard every day and blocked out the noise and it’s made a difference.”
In just their second year as a varsity program, Pebble Hills has put the Sun City and the state on notice for what they’ve done on the field. It’s the biggest game in school history but the Spartans are just focusing on stopping the Rams offense on Friday night.
“We have to try and keep them in front of us,” said cornerback Keshaun Cartwright, “They like to move around a lot and we have to stick with them the whole time.”
One more matchup that flies under the radar is the Spartan offense averaging more than 40 points a game. Like Montwood, they have a number of playmakers on that side of the ball including quarterback Orlando Puig (1,391 yards, 16 TD), running back Caleb Gerber (1,209 yards, 14 TD) and wide receiver Kevin Averette (488 yards, 5 TD).
Torres has called Averette his most consistent player since district play started and knows that his team will have to be consistent for a whole game in order to come out with the win.
“We’ve had a hard time putting a complete game together,” When you play a complete team like Montwood, you can’t take any plays off. That’s been our focus but we’re just going to take it one play at a time. If we can come out with that kind of focus, I’ll be excited to see what the result will be.”
The two face off on Friday night at 7 p.m. MST at the Socorro ISD Student Activities Complex.
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