Photo by Abel Carrillo
El Paso, Texas — Three years removed from being one of the worst 5A schools in the state of Texas, Austin head coach Eric Pichardo and his program delivered the first bi-district title since 2007 for Austin who thoroughly dominated Canutillo 35-14 to move onto the area round of the 2018 Class 5A DII UIL Playoffs.
The historic win improves the Panthers to 9-2 overall in Pichardo’s second season, as the Panthers will now await the winner of the Lubbock Cooper and Forth Worth Eastern Hills for their area round opponent.
It was a close game early as the teams traded scores on their opening drives, but a Canutillo fumble at the goal line changed the game and momentum to Austin’s favor, and the Panthers never looked back.
Austin running back Will Rodriguez ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns, putting Austin up early after a short run capped off a quick scoring drive to start the game.
Canutillo’s Carlos Amato ended the Eagles ensuing 75-yard drive with short three-yard touchdown run to tie things at 7-7 with 4:44 left in the opening quarter.
The Eagles drove deep into Austin territory to start the second quarter, but quarterback Caleb Rodriguez fumbled right as he was about to cross the goal line, and AJ Aragon recovered in the back of the end zone for Austin.
Austin took the ball and cashed in with a seven yard score by Will Rodriguez, and the Panthers led 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
Then another turnover put more points on the board for Austin, and Panthers put their foot on the gas from there.
Kam Walker took an interception 59-yards to the house on Canutillo’s next drive in the second quarter, and Austin took a 21-7 lead into the halftime break.
Aragon added a second half interception for the Panthers third forced turnover of the game and caught a highlight reel 32-yard touchdown pass with just 11 seconds left in the third quarter as Austin led 35-7 at that point. The senior athlete earns our Casa Nissan play of the game honors with his huge game.
Austin will be scoreboard watching tomorrow awaiting their area round opponent, while Canutillo season ends at 4-7 overall.