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Van Horn Advocate
The 5-11 senior had been hammering the ball past blockers all Saturday, first against El Paso High and Alpine, and now against Pecos. And with the Rangerettes holding a 15-14 lead, Gasch was set up for a match-ending spike that would give Greenwood the tournament championship.
Gasch's spike got past blocker Sherrie Mosby, but instead of hitting the floor, it turned into a pinball shot, caroming first off a diving Lori Marquez, then off Linsey Hathorn, before LaChrisha Molinar sent it over her head and across the net to a surprised Rangerette squad.
That broke serve, the Eagles then tied it when a Gasch spike went out of bounds, and a few minutes later it was Marquez spiking a shot past Gasch and onto the court, giving the Eagles a 17-15 win and their first tournament title in five years.
"That's the first time I've seen that kind of reaction this year, and that's a good sign," said coach Becky Granado, whose team survived five earlier match points while rallying from a 14-10 deficit to tie things at 14-all. "Overall, we're still making a lot of mistakes, but I was proud of them. They never gave up and kept fighting back."
Greenwood finished second at the Cantaloupe Classic last season, and appeared ready to move up the title this year, especially after blowing Pecos out in the opening game. Gasch dominated up front in the Rangerettes' 15-4 win, and it looked as though things would be over quickly when the Eagles fell behind in Game 2 by a 5-1 score.
"I think they were intimated by Karen at first," said Granado, who called a time out in the second game after a Gasch kill made it 4-1. "I can't even think of what triggered it and got us up."
Part of the change was due to Greenwood, which earlier lost Game 2 to Alpine before coming back to win their semifinal match. The Rangerettes made far more unforced errors in the second game, though Ivy Thorp had a spike and Marquez blocked Heather Hemphill during a 6-0 run that gave Pecos a 7-5 lead.
Greenwood then ran off four points of their own for a 9-7 lead, before the Eagles rallied to tie off a Thorp spike and a dink over the front blockers by Marisol Arenivas. Two aces by Thorp and a block of Gasch by Marquez gave the Eagles a 13-9 lead, and they finally won it off a pair of unforced errors by the Rangerettes.
The only time the Rangers trailed in the third game was after Marquez' game-winning kill. Pecos rallied once to tie at 3-0 after Greenwood took a 3-0 lead, But Gasch immediately put down a pair of spikes to help the Rangers go ahead, 7-3. From there, the Eagles wouldn't get close than two points, until Greenwood made it 14-10 off a bad relay by Pecos.
However, Greenwood would miss a pair of serves after that, and the Eagles broke serve on their own three other times. Mindy Choat, who had hit twice off quick sets earlier, missed one to make it 14-11.
Another bad spike by Stephanie Willis cut it to 14-12, and the Eagles then survived four more match points before another bad spike and an ace by Thorp knotted things at 14-all. Greenwood then got another chance to win, when Marquez couldn't handle Choat's serve, and that set the stage for Gasch's match-ending spike that wasn't.
The Eagles' win was almost the reverse of their quarterfinal match Saturday morning, when they dominated Midland High in the opener, then lost the second game and blew three match points in Game 3 before seeing the Bulldogs rally to tie. But unlike Greenwood, Pecos was able to hold on for the win, which was capped off by another Marquez kill.
In-between, the Eagles had a surprisingly easy time with a Fabens team that swept Fort Stockton in the quarterfinals. Pecos won 15-10, 15-7 over the Wildcats, who were then beaten by Alpine, 15-8, 15-4 in the third place game. Seminole downed Grandfalls, 12-15, 15-3, 15-8 to win consolation, Fort Stockton beat El Paso High for fifth place, 15-4, 15-11, and Midland High won seventh place over Van Horn, 15-4, 15-0.
The tournament title came after Pecos posted a 6-0 record in pool round play on Friday. They downed El Paso Parkland, 15-6, 15-4; Crane, 15-8, 15-13; and Van Horn, 15-6, 15-7.
Aside from Gasch's MVP award, Arenivas earned defensive player honors for the tournament, while Marquez and Thorp were on the all-tournament team, along with the Rangerettes' Choat. Other selections were Alpine's Celia Garcia, Seminole's Trisha Ratliff, Fort Stockton's Elisa Espino, Grandfalls' Laura Porras and Fabens Beverly Alarcon, while El Paso High's Adrianne Garcia was named outstanding setter and Wink's Jess Ann Fernandes was named the outstanding hitter.
The Eagles and Rangers both came out of Saturday's finals with 7-3 season records, and will get to play each other again on Friday, in pool round play at the Seminole Invitational. Vernon and Colorado City are also in the Eagles' pool this weekend.
Before then, Pecos will go to Alpine to face the Bucks and Odessa High in a repeat of the teams' season opener in Pecos. The Eagles lost their opener to the Bucks then beat the Bronchos two weeks ago.
Pecos also won the freshman division title, as the purple team downed Fort Stockton, 15-7, 15-8, while the Eagles' gold team beat Greenwood, 15-9, 15-5 to take consolation. Andrews beat Crane for third place, 15-5, 15-12.
In the JV division, the Eagles lost in the consolation finals to Andrews, 15-13, 15-11. Midland won the tournament title, 15-5, 15-6 over Fort Stockton, and Crane took third, beating Greenwood, 15-3, 16-14.
Pecos' defense didn't shut Greenwood down on their first 20-play series the way they had Crane a week earlier. But they kept the Rangers out of the end zone. And unlike a week earlier, when Crane took over after the first 25 plays, this time the Eagles maintained control, scoring the only two touchdowns during the controlled scrimmage, and adding another in the `sudden death' series to close out the evening with a 3-0 victory.
"I thought the kids did a good job. They maintained their intensity, and I was proud of them," said Eagles' coach Mike Belew, after Pecos first scrimmage win over the Rangers in four years.
Greenwood's offense got the ball inside Pecos' 30-yard-line early in the scrimmage, before quarterback Michael Otho's pass was intercepted by Chris Reyes at the Eagles' 23. The Rangers would end up with five first downs on their initial 20-play series before the Eagles' took over.
Pecos started the way they did against Crane, with Richard Gutierrez picking up 19 yards off left tackle on the Eagles' second play. Pecos would come up a yard short of another first down after that, but they then went 70-yards in nine plays for their first preseason score, off a 21-yard run by Lucio Florez.
The junior would wind up with just under 100 yards rushing on the night, with 61 of that coming on the second play of Pecos' second series, as he came through the left side of the line, then cut right down to the Rangers' 8.
One play later backup quarterback Oscar Luna would find Jason Abila -- shifted from quarterback to wide receiver for the second series -- in the left corner of the end zone for Pecos' second score.
Florez wasn't used as much against Crane on offense, and Belew said "That was planned. We wanted to get Lucio and Hector (Garcia) in at tailback more this week. We know what Mark (Abila) can do, and we wanted to get Lucio and Hector some reps. Mark's a defensive starter, and we need to get him some rest."
Abila, who at first appeared to have suffered a serious knee injury late in Pecos' 4-0 scrimmage loss to Crane, had a much better ending on offense this time, as he took a handoff and went through the right side of the Rangers' line and into the end zone from 15-yards out during the `sudden death' scrimmage section.
Jason Abila's touchdown was actually was overshadowed by a fight the broke out on the line just as Abila was hauling in the pass. The skirmish got the Rangers fired up, and they would play their best defense during the rest of the series, including an interception of Luna. He would get the back later, picking off Otho on the Rangers' third series, before Greenwood got their best scoring opportunity, returning an Abila interception to Pecos' 4-yard-line.
Greenwood appeared ready to score during their part of `sudden death.' The Rangers picked up 17 of the 25 yards they needed on their first two plays, but the Eagles' defense close the holes after that, stopping the Rangers for a yard loss on 4th-and-1 from the five to end the scrimmage.
Pecos wound up out-gaining Greenwood by a 225-218 margin, which is also the first time in four years the Eagles held the Rangers below 300 yards in scrimmage play. And in addition to stopping Greenwood inside, they were able to contain the Rangers' option on the outside, something that Pecos has had problems with in recent seasons.
"He (Otho) got behind us a couple of times, but overall we were much better than last year," Belew said. "Greenwood may not be as good as in the past, but you've got to credit the defense. It's getting a little better every day."
The defense was also better for Pecos' junior varsity and freshman teams. Both gave up three early scores against Crane, but on Friday the freshman shut out the Rangers, 1-0, and the JV didn't allow a score until the final play of their 3-1 win.
July Franklin had the ninth graders' lone score, off a 3-yard-run, while Trent Riley had a pair of fumble recoveries for the Eagles. The JV used back-to-back 70 yard scoring plays to get their win. Jacob Esparza ran in the first, and quarterback Derek Zubledia hooked up with Fabien Tarango on the second. The two would later connect on a 9-yard TD pass on Pecos' final offensive play.
Regular season play was scheduled to begin for all three teams this week against Lamesa. The varsity will host the Tornadoes at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the freshmen will do the same at 6 p.m. Thursday, but the JV game at Lamesa has been canceled.
The Bears collected five TDs in their scrimmage opener against Marathon, blanking their six-man district rivals on Aug. 22. Then on Friday in Ozona, the Bears did it again, but this time, the opponent was the state-ranked Brookesmith Mustangs.
Balmorhea, ranked No. 8, and Brookesmith, ranked either just ahead or just behind the Bears in the preseason six-man polls, both took long drives to Ozona for their final pre-season scrimmage, which the Bears won by a 5-3 final.
"We did good overall. We showed improvement from last week," said Erickson, who makes his official debut as Balmorhea head coach this Friday, when the Bears host Tatum, N.M.
"We seemed to be doing things with less mistakes overall, and that makes me feel better about the team as far as where we're at," Erickson said this morning.
The Bears have placed second the past two seasons in District 8-A six man, after advancing to the state semifinals in 1994. They were beaten out by Grandfalls last season, and the Cowboys are again expected to be Balmorhea's main challenge for the district title. Grandfalls got its 1997 season off to an early and successful start by beating Lake Arthur, N.M. on Friday, 52-0.
The Bears' opener against Tatum, N.M. -- which dropped down from 11-man to six-man football this year -- will start an hour earlier than usual, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Luckily for the Green Bay Packers, none of that seeped over to their maligned special teams.
Bill Schroeder had 160 return yards and set up all three of rookie Ryan Longwell's field goals in the Packers' 38-24 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
But the champs lost two more starters to knee injuries -- cornerback Craig Newsome, who will be out for the season, and tight end Mark Chmura, expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
They join Edgar Bennett, the starting running back, already gone for the season with a knee injured in the exhibition opener.
``I know exactly how they feel,'' said Packers flanker Robert Brooks, who had a touchdown catch in his return from reconstructive knee surgery. ``They just have to stay positive.''
But the Packers find themselves reaching into their depth chart yet again.
``What's new?'' two-time MVP Brett Favre said. ``It seems like it happens to us all the time.''
Last year, the Packers lost Chmura, Brooks and wideout Antonio Freeman midway through their Super Bowl run, although Freeman and Chmura returned.
``We found a way to overcome it and I hope we can overcome this,'' Favre said.
``It's going to hurt us because we're losing two leaders, two starters,'' Packers safety LeRoy Butler said. ``It's going to hurt us big-time.''
``I'm not happy about the injuries,'' Holmgren said. ``But hey, we won 38-24 and I'll take it.''
But the injuries stung.
``It makes it less enjoyable,'' said Favre, who threw two TD passes as the Packers woke up after a sluggish start that lasted almost a half. ``Those are two key guys.''
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
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