The Brownsville St. Joseph Bloodhounds won their first TAPPS bi-district championship in four years with a 56-48 defeat of Houston Lutheran South on Friday on the road.
Bloodhounds coach Tino Villarreal said it was the craziest game he’s been a part of in 18 years of coaching. St. Joseph led by two touchdowns at one point, but Houston Lutheran battled back and threatened to take the lead late in the game.
After a Pioneers touchdown cut St. Joseph’s lead to 49-48 with 10 seconds on the clock, Houston Lutheran played to win and ran the “Philly Special” on the two-point conversion. But Bloodhounds senior running back/linebacker Melik Kauachi and sophomore defensive back Adrian Del Pozo stepped up to make the stop.
The Pioneers went with the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and Del Pozo came up big again, returning the kick for a touchdown to seal the win for his team.
“It was just a rollercoaster of emotions because we scored to make it 49-42 with 1:10 left and they took no time getting back down there,” Villarreal said. “If they scored that (two-point conversion), we would’ve lost, because there were 10 seconds left. It was just their good football instincts. We knew their quarterback wanted the ball, so game on the line, season on the line, we decided to put our best 11 players out there and blitz everybody.
“We had (Kauachi) and Tomas Edge seal the edges where their quarterback was successful running … and Del Pozo to spy the quarterback as well,” he continued. “(Kauachi) contained his side, pressured the reverse man who was going to throw, and Del Pozo saw the quarterback out of the backfield, covered him, and they made the stop.”
Villarreal said the Bloodhounds’ defense made “two monster plays that really helped us win the game.” Senior defensive lineman Pablo De la Garza stripped the football on a punt return, and the ball fell into the hands of senior receiver/cornerback Lucky Edge, who carried St. Joseph into the red zone.
With the game tied, senior defensive back Sean Teo Ong chased down a receiver after being beat on a deep pass and stripped the ball, and senior cornerback Jackson Rodriguez jumped on the loose ball. Villarreal said those two turnovers were crucial to the victory.
St. Joseph’s offensive line struggled with injuries, which slowed down the run game. The Bloodhounds turned to the air, and junior quarterback Luigi Cristiano didn’t disappoint. He threw for six touchdowns and more than 500 yards to lead his team to the next round, prompting Pioneers coach Don Justice to say he was going to nominate Cristiano for the Ford player of the week award.
Tomas and Lucky Edge and Kauachi were the top receivers and contributed to the scoring for St. Joseph. The Bloodhounds will get a chance at redemption in the TAPPS Division II second round. They’ll face district foe Austin Regents, which beat the Cristiano-less Bloodhounds 55-0 in October, at 6 p.m. Friday in Austin.
“This is the first time we’ve won an area championship since Kai Money graduated, so it’s neat, it’s a big deal for us,” Villarreal said. “(Cristiano) was amazing. We couldn’t run the ball. We had some early injuries to the offensive line, we had to readjust the line, so we had to depend on (Cristiano) and he had an outstanding, ridiculous performance.”