LAREDO, Texas — The San Antonio Southwest Dragons (6-1, 4-0) powerful ground game exploded in a frenetic second half that ended in a 33-29 victory over the United Longhorns (3-5, 2-3) at the Student Athletic Complex in Laredo.
It was another heartbreaking defeat for United in the past two weeks and their hopes to be in contention for the district title took a serious hit. United head coach David Sanchez was visibly frustrated with the outcome.
“We fought, gave it everything we had but we came up short in a very physical game,” Sanchez exclaimed. “We got to regroup and win out now. That’s got to be our mindset going forward.”
The Longhorns’ offense got off to a strong start with a quick four-play drive that ended with a score when sophomore quarterback Eduardo Huerta hit senior wide receiver Jacob Morales. United took a 7-0 lead after a successful extra point.
San Antonio was true to form in their opening salvo. The Dragons’ rushers were in full display as running backs Sean Ruiz and Martin Torres took turns grinding out yards taking their team deep into United’s territory. Torres powered his way to a three-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-goal. After a botched extra point attempt, the Dragons found themselves down 7-6.
The second quarter saw a defensive duel emerge as both teams struggled to get a consistent offensive rhythm. The Dragons did manage to march to Laredo’s eight-yard-line but the Longhorns’ defense recovered a fumble to preserved the lead.
After moving into the Dragons’ 38-yard-line behind running back Isaac Velasquez, United failed to convert on a fourth-and-long that led to a turnover on downs with 2:27 remaining in the first half.
Dragons quarterback Damien Lopez finally got the passing game going late to include a strike to receiver Andrew Mitchell that put San Antonio in the red zone. Ruiz flashed his speed on a 9-yard run for a touchdown. This time, the extra point was money putting Southwest up 13-7.
Laredo was on their way to a touchdown when defensive cornerback Cade Stott picked off a Huerta pass with 50 seconds left to end the first half of football with the Dragons in the lead.
The second half was a barnburner as both offensive machines came alive and scored at will. Led by another impressive rushing performance from Ruiz — he carried the ball 23 times for 167 yards and three scores — Southwest was able to wear down the opposing defense and gain momentum.
“[United’s] defense was tough, fast and very physical,” said Ruiz. “This was a great game.”
The seesaw battled persisted into the fourth quarter as both teams took turns marching down the field and lighting up the scoreboard.
Running back Marcus Luna punched in a one-yard touchdown run to put the Dragons up by four points with a little over seven minutes left in the contest.
The Longhorns’ offense responded with a clock-draining drive behind gutsy performances by Huerta – he ended with 177 yards passing, 32 yards rushing and a score – and running back Isaac Velasquez, who rushed for a total of 105 yards and a touchdown.
The game came down to a fourth-and-six play at the Dragons’ 14-yard-line. With a little under three minutes left, Huerta dropped back and tossed one to the end zone that was deflected by Martin Torres leading to the Dragons taking over on downs. Southwest was able to run out the clock and stay undefeated in district play.
“Hell of a football game between two good football teams but unfortunately, someone had to lose. I’m glad that we were able to pull off the win tonight,” said Southwest’s head coach Matt Elliott. “[Sean Ruiz] is big time and so is Martin Torres. Both of them ran the ball well and I’m glad we’ve got them on our team.”
The Dragons are scheduled to play Laredo LBJ next while the Longhorns will face the Eagle Pass Eagles.
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