Guzman's field goal gives the Bucks the edge

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

The Freer Buckaroos fought a grueling ground battle with the Banquete Bulldogs Friday night, and withstood a late push to hold on for a 9-7 victory at home.

Banquete set the tone for the game on its opening drive.

The Bulldogs started from their own 32-yard line and rushed 16 consecutive times, using up nearly 10 minutes of the first quarter.

Facing a third and goal from the 4-yard line, the Bulldogs again called a rush up the middle, and Steven Karabanoff ran it in for the touchdown.

Matthew Rodriguez's extra point kick was good, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 2:24 to go in the first quarter.

Neither team could gain any traction in the second quarter, and when a Bulldog punt pinned the Buckaroos on their own 9-yard line with 2:42 to go in the half, Freer seemed primed for another short series.

Following a 3-yard rush, Freer quarterback Matthew Reyes took the snap on second down from the Buckaroos' 12-yard line and threw a spiraling 15-yard pass to Rey Guzman, who was cutting to the outside uncovered.

Guzman caught the pass near the 30-yard line, just past the Bulldog secondary, and won the foot race with the defenders up the left sideline for an 88-yard touchdown reception. The extra point was missed, and Banquete went into the break with a 7-6 lead.

Freer started the second half from their own 8-yard line, and used 17 plays and nearly 8-minutes of game time in a drive that sputtered out on the Bulldogs' 6-yard line.

Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Freer Coach Joseph Alvarado put in his kicking team, and Rey Guzman's field goal attempt split the uprights, giving the Buckaroos a 9-7 lead.

"I believe in that kid. I believe in our kicker. He's done it all season long, and I believe in all our kids," Alvarado said. "They're poised under pressure."

The Bulldogs last opportunity to get back on the board came in a drive that started from their own 17-yard line, with 4:27 to go in the game. After 6 plays, including one in which the Bulldogs converted a fourth down attempt, Banquete quarterback Marty Lopez was called for intentional grounding when he threw the ball out of bounds while scrambling to avoid a pass rush.

With 1:16 left on the game clock, the Bulldogs were faced with a fourth down from their own 23-yard line, with 17-yards to go for a first down.

Lopez took the snap and immediately was forced to retreat 10 yards as a swarm of Buckaroos defenders came into the backfield. Lopez dumped a pass off to receiver Mikey Gonzalez in the left flat, but Gonzalez was stopped before even reaching the original line of scrimmage, giving Freer the ball back on downs.

Two rushes and a kneel down later, the Buckaroos left the field with a win.

With the win, the Buckaroos, 4-5 (3-2), draw even with the Bulldogs, 6-3 (3-2), in the District 32-2A standings, with one week left to play. Banquete faces Riviera, 2-7 (0-5), at home next week, while Freer will travel to Bishop, 2-7 (2-3), to take on the Badgers.