The Calallen Wildcats survived their second straight scare coming out on top against the La Joya Coyotes, 23-14, Friday night.
The quarterback duo of Jeramie Marek and Dustin Vaughan threw for 184 yards in the win.
Defense was a key factor in the game in the first half. Nearing the end of the first quarter, the Coyotes drove the ball up to the Calallen 48-yard line.
On third and two, La Joya fumbled the ball, turning it over to the Wildcats.
Marek started the drive on a 22-yard run to the La Joya 30-yard line, but the drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion.
More trouble for the Calallen offense occurred in the second quarter. On third down and five yards to go on the Coyotes' 44-yard line, Wildcat running back Bryden McClure fumbled the ball as La Joya recovered it.
Still with the score at 0-0, Vaughan was at quarterback assisting Calallen to its first scoring drive from their own 17-yard line. At the La Joya 39, the junior quarterback threw a 38-yard pass to receiver Colin Simpson that led to a 1-yard touchdown run from Oliver Price. With the successful point-after attempt, the Wildcats were on the board first, 7-0, with 2:54 left in the first half.
La Joya began driving the ball as halftime came closer, but only managed to make it to Calallen's 34-yard line. Kicker Sergio Castillo attempted a 51-yard field goal attempt that went wide, keeping the Coyotes scoreless in the first half.
The Wildcats practiced patience in their opening drive in the second half possessing the ball for nearly half of the third quarter with a 13-play drive that led to a 9-yard touchdown run from Marek. Calallen was in control with a commanding 14-0 lead.
La Joya was not ready to call it a game as running back Jose Bocanegra returned Calallen's kickoff to the Wildcat 35-yard line.
Back up quarterback Justin Villarreal led the Coyotes to Calallen's 2-yard line, where he ran it in himself for a touchdown. La Joya was in striking distance, 14-7, after the extra point attempt was good.
Less than two minutes later, the Coyotes capitalized on an interception thrown by Marek as defensive back Humberto Cerda ran the ball back 54 yards for a touchdown and La Joya tied the game up, 14-14, at the end of the third quarter.
The Wildcats found themselves in offensive trouble again early in the fourth quarter as Marek fumbled the ball and it was quickly recovered by Cerda.
La Joya tried to take control of the game heading into Calallen territory. The Wildcats' defense was able to stop them at the 39-yard line.
On fourth and 10, the Coyotes were forced to punt, but an illegal formation from La Joya forced them to kick again. On their second attempt, a bad snap led to a fumble recovered by Calallen linebacker Kris Guerrero.
"I worked hard all week, and put a lot of extra hours watching video and being in the weight room," Guerrero said. "When I recovered the fumble, I was speechless because it meant the offense got a chance to get back on the field and put some points on the board."
With the ball at La Joya's 48-yard line, Marek took the ball himself after the snap running for 38 yards to the 10-yard line.
The next play, he took it himself again to score a touchdown run and put Calallen ahead, 20-14, after missing the point after.
"When I threw that interception, and saw them return it for a touchdown, I knew I had to go back out there and make up for it," Marek said. "Coach gave me the ball, and I knew I had to do something with it."
With 6:51 left on the clock, La Joya still had a shot to win the game but they were heading the opposite direction on third and eight after they were called on a holding penalty. On third and 18, the Wildcats' Alan Ford sacked Villareal for 14 yards, sealing the game for Calallen.
Coach Phil Danaher was pleased with Calallen's defensive effort, but the offense was another matter.
"I thought [La Joya's] kids played inspired football," Danaher said. "We have to improve and that's the bottom line. Offensively we've got to do better than this."
Calallen remains in the top 10 of the Texas High School AP poll as they face the Rockport-Fulton Pirates on the road Friday at 7:30 p.m.