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By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, Nov. 21 -- The Balmorhea Bears return to the scene of their
greatest playoff triumph in six-man football play on Friday night
looking to score another post-season win, when they take on the
Southland Eagles in the area round of the playoffs.
The 9-1 Bears and the 10-1 Eagles meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Stanton,
three days short of the second anniversary of Balmorhea's 71-70
quarterfinal victory over then-No. 1 ranked Guthrie, on Martin Sanchez'
68-yard kickoff return as time expired.
Friday's game won't match the Bears against another No. 1 team, but the
winner will likely get to face top-ranked Whitharral in the state
quarterfinals next week.
Southland has already done that once this year, coming out on the short
end of a 42-0 score in the teams' season opener. But since their loss to
Whitherral the Eagles have gone undefeated, including a 52-37 victory
over Borden County in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
"It's been hard to get any information, but they're a big team. Their
kids average about 190 pounds," Bears' coach Michael Barrandey said. "I
talked to their (Borden County's) coaches, and they did give me a little
bit about them."
The Bears defeated Grady last Friday in their bi-district game, 59-14,
at Imperial. In contrast to the Wildcats, who were surprise district
winners and had not had any recent post-season experience, Southland
lived up to its pre-season rankings. The Eagles took the District 5-A
six man title after advancing to the bi-district round of the playoffs
in 1995 with almost the same team Balmorhea will face on Friday.
The Eagles are led by running back Billy Salone and Jimmy Gatica, who
were the team's 1-2 rushers for the second year in a row.
After gaining 1,505 yards last season, Salone's numbers slipped to 1,357
yards this season, but that's due mostly to the Eagles ending four of
their last six regular season games early, under the 45-point rule. He's
scored over 200 points so far this season.
Gatica's numbers were also down, from just under 1,300 yards in 1995 to
just over 870 this time around. But he also starts on defense, where the
Eagles allowed just 46 points in their last seven regular season games.
"They've got a big fullback (Gatica) they run up the middle, while
Salone they usually use on sweeps," Barrandey said. "He's supposed to be
the top sprinter in the region. He's a short, stocky kid, but he's
supposed to be real fast.
"They averaged about 300 yards per game, and are ranked No. 6 in the
state right now," said the Bears' coach, whose team ended the season
ranked No. 9. "They're a ball control type of team, and they have a good
defense, so we'll just try and play our game, and run the spread and
tight offense and see which works best."
Balmorhea's first playoff win since their 71-70 triumph over Guthrie
didn't require any game-ending heroics last Friday, just some to close
the first half. Roger Lopez and Zane Rhyne improvised a 57-yard
touchdown pass following a bad snap from center, after the Bears had
stopped Grady on downs at their own 23 with one second left in the half.
The score turned a slim 15-14 Balmorhea lead into a 23-14 advantage --
still slim by six-man standards, but the Bears' defense went out and
dominated the Wildcats in the second half, while taking advantage of
some Grady mistakes to score six times and end the game under the
45-point rule with 2:20 to play.
Lopez's TD was his second of the half, while Debe Mendoza scored once in
each half and Arturo Miranda had three second half scores for the Bears,
who played their best second half of the season.
Lopez did have some leg problems in the second half last week, but
Barrandey said they were "just cramps. He wasn't hit or anything, he
just gets leg cramps from running so hard."
"We're in good shape physically. We have no (injury) excuses," the
Bears' coach added.
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PECOS, Nov. 21 -- Two members of the Balmorhea Bears volleyball team
were named to the second team on the all-District 7-A squad, which was
released this past weekend following Grandfalls-Royalty's elimination
from the Region I-A Tournament.
Senior Celia Rodriguez and sophomore Amy Garcia were the second team
selections for the Bears, who finished with an 0-4 mark in 7-A play this
While Grandfalls took the district title and reached regionals before
losing to eventual champion Water Valley, Wink's Jess Ann Fernandes was
named the Most Valuable Player in the district, after the sophomore led
the Wildcats to a second place finish this season.
Two other sophomores, Casey Slaughter and Geanna Baker, were named to
the first time from Wink, while Grandfalls put senior Suzanna Vasquez,
junior Laura Porras and sophomore Stacey Miller on the first team. Buena
Vista seniors Jacqueline Grant and Beatriz Bueno were the other first
Joining the Bears' Rodriguez and Garcia on the second team were four
Grandfalls juniors -- Janet Enriquez, Christina Huertas, Melissa Moses
and Donna Olivas -- along with Wink junior Amber Loftin and Buena Vista
senior Mireya Natividad.
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State and Regional Sports Pages--San Angelo Standard-Times
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