Photo by Alex Nicolas
El Paso, TX — There were peaks and valleys, momentum swings at every turn, big play after big play, and a district title crowned Friday night in West El Paso as Franklin powered past a good Pebble Hills team 31-28 with a strong final 24 minutes of football.
Pebble Hills was sitting pretty, holding a 14-7 halftime lead after Sebastian Ochoa threw a pair of touchdown passes to Devean Deal. One of those scores was a fourth down and long situation giving Pebble Hills early momentum after an 18-yard pass and catch for a score.
The Spartan defense held the Cougars to just 24 first half rushing yards, and 118 total yards in the first half, but a pair of interceptions and costly mistakes in the third quarter killed Pebble Hills’ a chance at possible share of a district title.
Ochoa would throw a pair of interceptions, one tipped pick that was just in front of Deeal and landed into the hands on Jalon Warthen. The second was an ill-advised duck that Gabe Stonewall dove and secured inside Spartan territory.
Those two turnovers were cashed in by the Franklin offense who rolled off 17 unanswered points to grab a 24-14 lead with after a 5-yard touchdown run following Stonewall’s interception.
Caleb Gerber was superb all night, running for an unofficial 184 yards and two touchdowns. His 65-yard run sprint down the sideline cut the Franklin lead to 24-21 just a few seconds into the fourth quarter.
Pebble Hills would kick the ensuing kick off out of bounds, and it took James McClain-Green two plays, and 55 yards with a 21-yard scamper capping the drive to put the Cougars up 31-21 with 10:50 to go, but the Spartans would not give up that easily.
Gerber ran in a short touchdown run after a beautiful fourth down grab right at the goal line by Noah Mendoza which again trimmed the lead to 31-28 with 2:30 and coach Mark Torres had all three timeouts in his back pocket.
On a third and eight situation with under a minute left, Franklin called a designed quarterback draw, and Danny Walther got 12 yards on the QB keep and thus secured the 11th district title in school history.
Pebble Hills kicker Francisco Prieto missed a 30-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter, which ended up being a key inopportunity along with some pre-snap penalties that kept the Spartans behind the chains in key series despite a great overall effort.
McClain-Green earned Casa Nissan player of the game honors as he finished the game with 138 rushing yards, and a touchdown. Franklin ran for 187 yards in the second half and extends their winning streak to seven games.
Pebble Hills still has playoff hopes as they drop to 2-2 in district play and will face Coronado on Friday for a shot at a playoff spot depending on result of the Montwood-Americas game which also takes place Friday.
Franklin will play at Socorro next Thursday.