“Relief.” A small word that brings comfort and on Friday night, December 1 in Corpus Christi Texas it brought celebration. The undefeated Panther’s faced the undefeated Greyhounds from San Benito in the regional semi finals. The game was held at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi.
When comparing the stats and the accomplishments on paper the two teams matched up equally. Although the Greyhounds had not played some of the stronger teams in the preseason (unlike the Panthers) they developed a strong team that devoured their competition. Their secret weapon—Erick Retta, senior, quarterback.
In studying both teams, I knew it would be a battle of the two quarterbacks. Retta vs. Sanchez. Much like Ali and Joe Frazier’s second fight—“Super Fight II” two outstanding athletes hit the gridiron to determine the winner.
Retta reminded the Panther coaching staff and fans why the game would not end until the final seconds ticked off the clock. Numerous times the Panthers would develop a 14 to 17 point lead over San Benito and each time, Retta would step back, drop back, and scramble to make lemonade out of the lemons he was dealt.
Retta also had some help from Lady Luck. The Panthers held San Benito to a 3rd down and 100 miles to go for a first down, ball in the San Benito backfield. Retta and company was not able to complete the conversion. Unfortunately a Panther player is flagged for unsportsmanlike behavior and the Greyhounds earn an automatic first down. Four plays later and Retta is waltzing across the end zone.
Retta proved to the players and fans from both sides of the stands he would score quickly and efficiently.
It was almost like watching Sanchez in a mirror. At the end of the game, I asked Coach Malesky, “Did you think it was like playing against Roel?” His quick response, “Absolutely, that is why I had to find that kid at the end of the game. He played hard. He played well. He had a great game, but our quarterback was better.”
Retta attempted 22 passes for 14 completions and 199 yards. He threw for 4 touchdowns. Retta was also the leading Greyhound rusher. He carried the ball 19 times for 139 yards. Retta would be responsible for the only two rushing touchdowns for the Greyhounds.
Retta would connect with Tyrone Harper, Avelino Garcia and Chrisitian Solis in the air for four touchdowns. Overall the Greyhounds amassed 439 yards rushing.
The Greyhound defense deserves some credit as Sanchez spent some time on his feet scrambling but he also spent some time on the turf as the Greyhounds were able to capture a couple of quarterback sacks.
The Panther player responsible for grabbing Lady Momentum away from the Greyhounds, danced a foxtrot and the tango before sitting her down on the Panther bench, is Millard Bradford. During the early moments of the third quarter, the Greyhounds quickly moved the ball down he field and into the Greyhound end zone. I can honestly say (love this cliché) every person in San Benito was on their feet, screaming, cheering, knowing that Lady Momentum had just decided to change dance partners.
Now I don’t know if Millard is a jealous person, I do know he was not about to allow his dancing partner to desert him. In the ensuing kick off Bradford catches the ball and proceeds to zig, zag, weave, duck, glide to the left, feint to the right, and then tiptoe ok maybe he didn’t tiptoe but barreled into the end zone for a Panther touchdown. Bradford’s run quickly silenced the Greyhound fans and Lady Momentum she spent the rest of the night sitting on the Panther Bench.
The scoring duo for the Panthers was Roel Sanchez and Greyson Lee. At least on my computer I do not have to worry about autocorrect fixing Grayson’s first name for me. Roel Sanchez, Roeled into the end zone 3 times and connected with Greyson Lee for three touchdown receptions. I have to coin a phrase for Roel’s scoring technique. To simply say this young man ran into the end zone does no justice to his scrambling, leaping, (sorry Coach) acrobatic skill he exhibits on the football field. I truly believe this young man is a closet gymnast and since O’Connor does not have a gymnastic team, he found an outlet for his creative skills.
The player who deserved combat pay during the game was Greyson Lee. As the game progressed and the players from San Benito became frustrated, Panthers became targets. Lee completed a clutch pass on a third down conversion, already down on the turf No. 10 from the Greyhounds takes a flying dive into the back of Lee. The Greyhound player looked like a Kamikaze pilot from World War II.
The Panther receiving staff kept the Greyhounds guessing as to who would catch the next ball. Lee, Samuel Castillo, Dylan Murray, Jalen Hughes, Trey Patterson, and Parker Robertson all caught passes for a total of 291 yards.
Rushing duty was split between Sanchez, Dylan Murray, and Trey Patterson for a total of 140 yards.
Michael Lyssy and his golden foot continued with 7 of 7 extra points and a field goal.
The offensive line once again provided coverage and time for Sanchez to locate his man, and opened holes for the running backs to find new ground in Bucc stadium.
Jalen Hughes had a stellar night as he and Bradford continued to harass the Greyhound receivers.
If you missed the game in person, or if you were like Ms. Perez and watched it from the front seat of her living room (yes, they live streamed the game), —you missed an excellent game. There were athletes who supported our Country; everyone respected the ROTC students as they displayed the colors. You watched as athletes continued to play even as the odds started to desert them. You understood what it meant for athletes to play for the love of the game, not for millions of dollars in their bank account.
You witnessed a whole town, closing down for the night, traveling to a stadium and stand and cheer for their athletes. I would watch this game any Sunday afternoon.
However there are two takeaways from this game that are important.
First. O’Connor players never believed in defeat. They continued to play until the end. Even as San Benito was able to score quickly, the Panther players continued to play; they remained focus, they followed instructions; and never stopped fighting.
Second. These young men from O’Connor deserve respect. Not for playing the game but for demonstrating sportsmanship. The Panthers were the targets last night of cheap shots and frustration by the Greyhounds. I am sorry to say, I witnessed some of the dirtiest play by any team I have covered all season in the Greyhounds. I understand when a team who hasn’t lost is facing the end of the season, but how you are remembered in defeat will forever speak to your character. I am proud of the O’Connor coaching staff and players that refused to wallow in the same mud as others.
The final takeaway. The Panthers are not a one person or one player team. The whole team, every player, has a responsibility and a role to play on the field. The coaching staff demands this; the coaching staff holds each player accountable. It is this team effort that allows the Panthers to stalk their opponent, pounce upon their opponent, and send them home.
All Panther eyes are turned on Los Fresnos Texas today, December 2. Lake Travis and Los Fresnos will take the field at 1pm to determine the Panther’s opponent in the regional final game.
Stan Laing, Executive Director of Athletics for Northside reported, “If Lake Travis wins, the regional final game will be played in the Alamodome at 4pm on Saturday., December 9. If Los Fresnos wins, the Panthers will travel to Los Fresnos on Saturday, December 9 to play the regional final game.