EDINBURG —The saying goes “defense wins championships.” For Edinburg High, it also wins rivalry games.
The Edinburg High Bobcats rode their defense to a 24-14 victory over crosstown rival Edinburg North on Thursday night at Richard R. Flores Stadium to improve to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in District 31-6A play.
“This was a big ball game for us. Our kids have been working hard. We had a bad start, but it’s a long-distance race, not a sprint, and these kids buy into that,” Edinburg High head coach J.J. Leija said. “We had some mistakes tonight, but when the time was right, they overcame the adversity and did what they needed to do.”
From the opening kickoff until the final play of the game, Edinburg High senior defensive lineman Manny Duron, the reigning District 31-6A Defensive Player of the Year, wreaked havoc against the Cougars offensive line and backfield. Duron finished with three sacks, showing off his versatility with some key blocking on offense, and also drilling a 51-yard field goal, which put the Bobcats up 10-7 at the half.
Eventually, all that pressure up front from Duron and the Bobcats’ defensive line paid off during the second half as the Edinburg High defense recorded four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by sophomore defensive back Ben Gonzalez.
“(Duron’s) one of our biggest players on defense. He wreaks so much havoc on quarterbacks and brings pressure and forces them to throw bad passes,” Gonzalez said. “As a secondary, we just capitalized on that.”
Gonzalez’s first pick-six was caught in his own end zone and returned 103 yards down the left sideline. With Edinburg North driving late, his second interception shut the door on the Cougars’ comeback attempt.
“I just give the credit to my teammates. They did their part and I did mine and was in the right place at the right time,” Gonzalez said.
Leija said the sophomore defensive back has come on strong lately for the Bobcats.
“He’s been a bright spot for us. A youngster stepping in and taking charge. He’s playing with a lot more confidence and that’s a good thing,” Leija said.
Edinburg High running back Shandon Woodard rushed for 150 yards and one touchdown to lead the Bobcats offense.
On the other side, Edinburg North’s offense scored one touchdown in each half. During the first quarter, running back Ricky Garza broke loose for an 88-yard touchdown run. In comeback mode during the fourth quarter, quarterback Kaleb Guajardo hit Jose Suares for a 17-yard touchdown, but the Cougars didn’t have enough to overcome costly turnovers as North dropped to 2-2 overall.
Edinburg North will look to bounce back with another tough test as the Cougars are set to take on Edinburg Vela at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 at Richard R. Flores Stadium in Edinburg.
Meanwhile, next up for Edinburg High (2-1, 2-0) is a bye week before the Bobcats face Edinburg Vela (1-0, 0-0) on Nov. 27.
“It was a great all-around game. We had a great team effort. The coaches came in with a great game plan and we executed and came out with the ‘W,’” Gonzalez said.