rAYMONDVILLE — Last year, as Raymondville and Port Isabel stood tied at 13 with less than 30 seconds to play, Bearkats coach Joe Gonzales was already preparing his troops for overtime.
The extra session, however, never came.
Instead, Port Isabel quarterback Zach Reeves mistakenly threw the ball up for grabs while getting hit, and Raymondville’s Brandon Garza picked off the pass and took it down field for a game-winning touchdown.
“That was heartbreaking,” said Port Isabel quarterback Isaiah Martinez, who was sidelined with a bum ankle and had to watch his backup go 3 for 19 with two interceptions that night.
“It was a bad feeling last year how that happened, really bad,” Port Isabel right tackle Mark Benavidez said. “(The locker room after the game was) quiet. Nobody was saying a word.”
Port Isabel will be looking for redemption when it travels to Willacy County for a tilt with Raymondville at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Burnett Stadium.
“I know there’s a little revenge (factor) in this game because of last year,” Gonzales said. “I know that’s sitting in the back of their minds and our kids know that too.”
While Port Isabel will go into the game hungry for revenge, the Bearkats are looking at tonight as a chance to pull off an epic upset.
Port Isabel cracked the Associated Press Texas High School Football 3A top 10 poll this week at No. 9, and Gonzales made sure his players knew about it.
“I tell our kids, ‘You’ve always wanted to play a state-ranked team. Here’s your chance,’ and it’s right in our backyard so they’re fired up,” Gonzales said.
The Bearkats turned the ball over six times in a tough 34-21 loss to a solid Orange Grove squad last week.
Facing a six-point deficit as the game was wound down, Raymondville was threatening to score before a costly fumble ended all hopes of an upset.
Port Isabel hasn’t had to break a sweat through two blowout wins against Brownville Veterans Memorial and Lyford.
But they know this week poses a stiffer challenge. Benavidez thinks the Bearkats are the toughest opponent they have played to date.
“Watching video, they had chances to beat Orange Grove,” Port Isabel coach Monty Stumbaugh said. “Our games are always tough games with them and I don’t expect this one to be any different.”
Port Isabel’s 2012 All-Valley linebacker Estevan Montelongo, who said he was injured in a car accident the night before the Tarpons’ season opener, practiced in full pads this week and is expected to play.
Last week he was used only sparingly against Lyford, and his week of practice consisted of only conditioning drills.