Eagles stop Warhorse roll 35-12; turnovers, penalties deter Devine’s undefeated bid

Pleasanton big-played Devine for a 35-12 victory over the visiting Warhorses last Friday night. Devine committed four turnovers and was flagged for nine penalties in their first loss of the season. The Horses are now 3-1 and take on Luling for Homecoming this Friday night.
Devine took a 6-0 lead on an Ethan Santos 8-yard run to give Devine its fourth straight lead to begin a ballgame this season. Unfortunately, that lead would not hold as Pleasanton scored five of the next six touchdowns to claim the lopsided victory.
“It was definitely a tough loss on Friday,” said Head Coach Paul Gomez to begin his post-game analysis. “We’ve got to hand it to Pleasanton, though, as they have a talented team over there. We all knew their talent level going in, but we did not respond the way that I thought we would.”
Even though Devine has several returning players and starters in that matter, Pleasanton still has the more veteran roster in terms of junior and senior upperclassmen. A year or two older players means a year or two ahead in the physically and mentally stronger categories.
“Pleasanton just played harder than we did as a whole in all aspects of the game. That falls on me,” Gomez continued. “I have to do a better job getting the boys ready to go. I take full responsibility for that loss and we are going to do everything possible so that doesn’t happen again.”
After Santos’s opening touchdown, not a whole lot went right for the Warhorses the rest of the evening. There were a couple of faint hopes that Devine had gotten on track and was ready to make a game of it, then something such as a penalty, a turnover, a blown coverage, a mental mistake, or just plain, dumb luck in Pleasanton’s favor occurred. They were ready to pounce on every gift-wrapped opportunity that the Horses presented.
“There were many times that because of not being where we were supposed to be or doing what we were supposed to be doing, we had a negative play. On their punt return for a touchdown for example, their returner dropped the ball then picked it up and then stumbled and we had three players there to make a play but he never even gets touched. We did not take the right angles and didn’t converge to the ball and it cost us seven points.”
The punt return was the first example given by Gomez in how his team not performing at its best on a single play quickly turned things in the Eagle’s favor.
“On their 58-yard touchdown run by Ramos” Gomez said, “we were supposed to slide our defensive end over to a 9-techneique but our outside linebacker did not make the call, which put us out-flanked from the beginning of the play. Then, we have a few guys that got close, but never made the tackle out in space.”
Pleasanton limited Devine to its lowest totals of rushing yards and total yards offensively. As aggressive as the Eagles were on offense, they were equally as aggressive on the defensive side of the ball.
“We could never sustain drives because of the aggressiveness of their safeties coming up hard on our sweeps and cutback plays. Our offensive linemen and tight ends had difficulty getting to the next level of their blocking assignments, which made it a difficult night on our running game,” Gomez said about the season-low rushing numbers.
Devine quarterback Brady Hackebeil threw the ball with accuracy, although the stats will not show that. Just as the superior play by the Eagle defense against the Warhorse run stunted those numbers, the same can be said for Devine’s passing game.
“On our action pass, our receiver did not attack the safety which would have prevented them from having anyone over the top. If we attack like we expect, then we have a few plays where our guy is wide open for a touchdown.”
Game flow
With Ethan Santos scoring Devine’s first touchdown of the game giving Devine an early 6-point lead, it is hard to overlook a missed extra point that did not provide the normal 7-point cushion. Once a conversion attempt fails for whatever reason, point chasing is activated which changes philosophies as the game moves along.
Eagle receiver Jayden Palacios caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Sean Ramos in the flats on the left side of the field to even the game at six apiece. Jose Angel-Perez converted the extra point to give Pleasanton a 7-6 lead, a lead they never relinquished.
Diego Luna caught the Eagles second touchdown pass of the night on a 32-yard catch-and-run midway through the second quarter, giving Pleasanton a 14-6 advantage.
Luna made his presence known on a special teams play from his punt return position. Luna did not field the ball cleanly, and as the ball bounced around momentarily, it looked like for a split second the Horses could pin the Eagles somewhat deep in their own territory.
However, Luna split the would-be Devine tacklers to score up the left sideline from 70-yards away. This could have been the most pivotal of all plays as the Eagles took a commanding 20-6 lead.
Both teams’ defense rose to the challenge in the third quarter as both offensive units were shut out in a scoreless third quarter.
The “point-chasing” began early in the fourth quarter as Devine finally reached the end zone once again on fullback Marcus Rodriguez’s 8-yard run. The two-point conversion failed and the Horses trailed by nine 21-12.
The failed conversions kept the game at a two-score disadvantage for Devine.
Big-play Pleasanton struck back quickly however on a 58-yard Ramos run only 0:11 later to put the Eagles in front 28-12.
The Eagles final score of the game was also of the long-range variety. Not quite as far as Xavier Contreras’s 99-yard run a week ago against YMLA, Eagle Juan Lopez went untouched for 90-yards on a reception from Ramos.
Lopez’s touchdown provided teh 35-12 final margin.
Looking forward
Few teams complete a full season undefeated, and the Horses were still a long way from approaching that 10-0 as their first loss occurred somewhat early in the season. Devine players and coaches went back to work on Saturday and look forward to performing in front of their home fans once again as Homecoming brings in many ex-DHS students and athletes.
“We are going to do lots–and I do mean lots–of open field tackling by our linebackers, corners, and safeties that will help us tackle better overall. We are going to do more individual offense drills and work on blocking from our backs on blocking perimeter and offensive line coming off combos and picking up linebackers. We are going to work on these weaknesses and turn them into strengths. It is okay to make some mistakes from time to time but once they’re made, we have work to fix them so that particular mistake likely doesn’t happen again. That is the goal.”
Devine athletes are known for their resilience and tenacity, so do not expect them to cower down in the face of adversity. The Warhorses will come out with a vengeance this Friday, and Luling will feel the unfortunate wrath of Devine coming off its first loss of the season.
“Our boys will get better,” Gomez promised. “We need to put our heads down and get to work. We need to stay humble and continue to play for each other. That’s how we can be successful in the future. We have to stay unselfish and remain a team, and not turn into a bunch of individuals. I think we will and I think this will make us a closer team.”
Coach speak
Devine running backs coach Evan Eads is always gracious to share his views whether it be after a dominating Warhorse performance or after a game he and the rest of the team would rather forget.
“We did not have our best game Friday. Pleasanton is a quality opponent with an aggressive defense. We could have blocked better and we could have made fewer mistakes. We dropped too many passes but we will learn and improve.”
Eads understands one loss does not derail long-term aspirations of district and playoff championships.
“Our goals are still achievable,” he said, “and I expect our guys to respond this week.”
Defensively, Eads has the middle backers and noted that Mason Martinez was one of his bright spots that came out of Friday night’s game.
“Mason played 29 snaps on defense and he gave a great effort. His tackling is improving and his reads are getting quicker. Nick Ortiz will start to see more time as he did another good job with the time he got. He is improving in practice and it is good to see him more aggressive.”
By Jerel Beaty
Staff Writer