LAKE ARTHUR — Hopefully the Lake Arthur Panther football team gets to travel next week in the quarter-finals of the 6-man state championships. The Panthers dropped a 45-25 decision at home to the 3rd-ranked Vaughn Eagles to finish winless at home. The Panthers, coincidently, won all of their road games.
The Panthers simply could not overcome the loss of two of their two-way starters to injury (both will probably be out for next week’s playoffs as well) and giving up 5 turnovers in falling to 3-4 on the season.
The win almost assured the Eagles of hosting a playoff contest next week while wrapping up a 4-2 season.
“When you already have minimal players as it is, losing one is big and when you lose two, (it’s even bigger),” stated coach Jose Cruz Porras. “We had to rearrange in the second half and put people in positions – in specialty positions – like quarterback. But, the kids stepped up and that’s all you can ask. We tried to chip back but that three touchdown deficit was hard to erase.”
The Eagles got off to a quick 12-0 lead as they needed to only drive 18 yards in each of the scoring possessions. The Panthers cut the lead to 12-6 late in the quarter when freshman Adrian Guillen threw a TD strike to senior Luis Tarango from 38 yards out on a 4th-and 6 situation. Incidentally, both players would leave the game with injuries and not play in the second half.
Both teams would trade possessions and then the Eagles’ Morgan Berumen would break free for a 55 yard TD run to make it 19-6. The Panthers would answer three plays later as freshman Armando Rey would cap a short drive with a 4 yard run around left end to cut the lead to 19-12.
Following a great stop by Carlos Montoya on a fourth and 4 from the Eagles, the Panthers needed three plays to make it 19-18 as Guillen would ramble in untouched from 17 yards out. Any momentum was lost however as Lawrence Salazar returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to pay dirt and the lead was back to seven at 25-18.
The Eagles would score with no time left on the clock to make it 31-18 at the half.
The hosts started the second half with only 7 suited out players, but they made the most of it – especially from freshman Valdemar Diaz. With the Panthers down to their third-string qb, the majority of the plays went through the bruising freshman. Diaz would carry the ball 19 times for 110 yards in the second half and score the lone Panther touchdown. That score would come with 4:35 on the clock and wrap up the scoring for the game as the Eagles had scored twice in the third quarter.
“This kid (Diaz) is a man amongst boys,” stated Porras. “Vaughn saw what this kid is capable of. He’s a freshman. He stepped up big tonight. I see big things from this kid – he’s done nothing but do that all year and today was just another example. I commend him and the rest for stepping up and finishing well.”
The Panthers now await the seeding committee’s decision of where they will fall in the bracket for the state championship. If they have to travel, it may be a blessing in disguise.