AHS uses King miscues to go up early 21-0

Pete Garcia, Alice Echo-News Journal

CORPUS CHRISTI - On a night in which the King Mustangs committed six turnovers in historic Buccaneer Stadium, it took an amazing and extraordinary play to finally seal the Alice Coyotes' third-straight win of the season.

Alice led by eight, but King seemed poised to close the gap. That's when their drive came to a screeching halt because of a pass broken up by Alice defensive back Joseph Chase's right ankle. He closed up on the low pass, but the ball bounced off his ankle and into the awaiting hands of sophomore linebacker Jesus Espinoza.

His 45-yard interception return to the end zone was called because of an inadvertent whistle, but it didn't matter at that point. Alice retook possession of the ball which led to seven more points on their way to a decisive 34-19 victory.

"I just turned around and it was right there and I caught it," Espinoza said. "I just heard, 'Run!' It was like everyone - all our coaches and everyone in the stands - they all blared out, 'Run!'"

It was one of six King turnovers in the ball game, but while that interception finished off the Mustangs' late push, it was their early miscues with gave the Coyotes a 21-0 led.

On its first offensive play of the game, the Coyotes quickly moved to the Mustangs' 15-yard line with a pass from A.J. Benavides to Mateo Gonzalez. Later in the drive on a fourth down at the King 1-yard line, Benavides punched the ball in to put his team on top.

The ensuing kickoff ended in disaster for the Mustangs and an opportunity for the Coyotes. Returner J.R. Arriola mishandled the kick which led to a fumble recovered by Augie Lopez at the 21-yard line.

A screen pass to Deon Hill and an 11-yard touchdown run capped off that Alice possession.

The following kickoff again went the Coyotes' way. This time it was King's Chris Jackson who put the ball on the ground and it was Alice's Noe Cantu who recovered it. On the very next play, the Coyotes scored on a 16-yard pass to Gonzalez.

Just like that in a matter of three minutes Alice was on top 21-0. It was an early hole which King struggled to get out of for the remainder of the game.

"In those three minutes of the game, we made just way too many mistakes," King coach Jim Elam said. "We got behind 21-to-nothing and that's hard to overcome. We made bad errors covering people and horrible errors in our kicking game, and we basically gave them three touchdowns in three minutes."

When the Mustangs did manage to field a kickoff, they went to a tight I-formation set to take advantage of their size and the bruising running style of running back Phillip Thomas. With that, the Mustangs scored twice in the second quarter on touchdown runs by Thomas and quarterback Matt Morales.

Another King touchdown in the third quarter cut Alice's lead to 24-19, but miscues continued to haunt the Mustangs. After stopping Alice and forcing them to punt early in the fourth quarter, the punt bounced off the back of a King blocker. David Macias recovered the loose ball to set up a scoring drive which was finished off by an 18-yard field goal by Justin Guerrero. Guerrero also had a 27-yard field goal just before halftime.

"We're very opportunistic, and that's the way we have to be," Alice coach Brent Davis said. "We're not going to be bigger than the people we're playing, but we're scrappy.

"That's the way they've always been here in Alice. That's what our tradition is."

Alice scored again midway through the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Hill following the Espinoza interception.

A late interception by Guerrero deep in Alice territory ended the game.

That's a good Class 5A football team right there," Davis said about King. "You're not going to see many offenses like they had where they can just line up and run you over."

Alice quarter A.J. Benavides had another good night by completing 9 of 15 passes for 108 yards. Hill led Alice in rushing with 14 carries for 69 yards. Amado Ramirez had five carries for 19 yards