Photo by El Paso Herald Post/Story by Christian Molinar
EL PASO, Texas – The environment at Tom Work Riverfront Stadium Friday night was playoff-like.
Win and you’re in, lose and your season is over. Both teams had treated this as a playoff game and it wouldn’t disappoint. Four quarters of a back and fourth, nail biting football took place.
The first kickoff of the game was a short one to Ever Chavez who got a nice return to give Hanks a short field, Chavez would cap off the drive with a 13 yard touchdown reception. He would take advantage of the single coverage he was given most of the night, as the Rangers would double, sometimes triple team the city’s all-time leading receiver Mykal Blanco on the opposite side.
Hanks would have the ball again later in the quarter although Riverside would intercept Aaron Molina to set up shop at the 1 yard line. Issac Pickard on a quarterback keeper would score knotting it up at 7-7. That would be all the scoring in the first quarter as both defenses would tighten up, but not for long.
Less than 4 minutes into the second quarter we would see two touchdowns traded between the offenses again.
Riveside’s Angel Munoz would finish a drive that started in the first quarter, going up 14-7. Three mins later Hanks would respond with Ever Chavez again to tie things back up at 14-14.
On a Riverside punt, the snap would be too high and sail into the end zone giving Hanks two more points to break the tie with Hanks leading 16-14.
Hanks would take advantage right after the Riverside miscue, finding Mykal Blanco for a 30 yard jump ball bomb on the left sideline. You could feel Hanks might be getting ready to pull away with a 23-14 lead at that point but the Rangers would fight back into the game.
Less than two minutes Riverside would work play action to perfection, finding Frank Estrada on a 60 yard go route. Hanks led 23-21 as the clock showed just under 3 minutes to play, Hanks would close the half with a field goal extending the lead to taking a 28-23 lead into the halftime break.
Both teams would make adjustments coming into the third quarter, Hanks would not turn the ball over again after three turnovers in the first half and Riverside would use a different offense that produced more big plays and longer drives in the second half.
Riverside’s Jerry Padilla would be open in the flats and would run 20 yards after a stiff arm and a dive to the pylon, producing the first touchdown of the second half. After a failed PAT, the lead would just be one point. 27-26 in favor of the Knights.
Hanks would just get 3 points in the 3rd quarter, we head off to the exciting finish with the score 29-27 Hanks in the lead as the fourth quarter got underway.
Only two field goals would be scored in the 4th quarter as both defenses had stepped up big.
Riverside’s offense would struggle and would turn the ball over late with an interception. Hanks had their share of redzone issues of not being able to score inside the 10-yard line.
Hanks had chances to pull away and Riverside had chances to score to go ahead. Neither defense broke and thus a back and forth defensive struggle would keep us and the fans on the edge of our seats.
The season for both teams came down to the final drive.
Riverside would have the ball with 1:49 on the clock. Down 35-27, a touchdown and a two point conversion is needed. The safety and miss PAT looked huge in this moment.
After some big plays and a couple of flags on both teams, Riverside would have its final chance from 35 yards out to score. Two shots at the end zone would be batted down and Hanks would walk away with a hard earned victory and a spot in the playoffs next week.
Aaron Molina had three touchdowns passes, two to Ever Chavez and one to Mykal Blanco. He also had 65 yards rushing. Aaron Candelaria would go 4-4 in field goals and caught 4 passes for 32 yards. Mykal Blanco double teamed all night would still catch 3 passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. Molina and Chavez would be our players of the game but Candelaria was also huge for the Knights with his clutch field goals.
Hanks will face Austin next week in the bi-district round.