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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Defense better for Pecos at scrimmage

The second of the Pecos Eagles’ two preseason scrimmages started about the way the first one did on defense. That wasn’t very good for the Eagles, but things got a lot better after that in their match-up against the Greenwood Rangers.

Pecos, which allowed a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play of their scrimmage with Seminole the previous Saturday, allowed a 50-yard run by Greenwood to open up Thursday’s scrimmage at Eagle Stadium. But the defense would then keep the Rangers out of the end zone on that drive, while ending up surrendering one score on the opening 15-play series.

Pecos would get that score back on their first 15-play series, and while the offense would struggle after that with fumbles, the defense would allow one score during the 15-play series with the second team units on the field, while the Rangers would end up with the lone score in the 12-minute timed quarter, on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds to play. “Just the intensity and the effort were totally different from what we had at the Seminole game,” said Eagles’ coach Chris Henson, after last week’s 7-2 scrimmage loss. “We had a couple of starters back on defense (nose guard Burt Sotelo and end Isaiah Vela), and that made a big difference for us, but all across the defense we played better. (Wayne) Sparkman had a big game and the others all played well.”

Greenwood came into Thursday’s scrimmage for the second year in a row having lost quarterback Colton Wilbur to injury the previous week against Monahans. Last year, the Rangers had a built-in replacement in Stanton QB transfer Michael Washington, as he stepped in and guided Greenwood to six scores against Pecos’ first team defense.

This year, the Rangers had back-up Noe Rodriguez replacing Wilbur, and while things started well, the Eagles’ defense contained Rodriguez on the ground for the rest of the night. He would hook up with tight end Black McCullough for a 28-yard touchdown pass near the end of the 15-play series, and would close out the scrimmage by hitting John Brown for the only touchdown of the 12-minute quarter.

Pecos’ opening offensive series didn’t start well, as quarterback Paul Zubeldia was intercepted on his first pass. But the junior would then run for nine yards on a 3-and-7 play and hook up with Jeremiah Soto on a pair of completions, a 12-yarder for a first down and then a 28-yard TD pass two plays later, after a 13-yard gain by Hector Ramirez.

The Rangers’ second team would get their touchdown on a 54-yard run off a sweep around the right end, and would have one other long run in the series. Pecos’ second team, meanwhile, had problems holding onto the ball, as quarterbacks Nathan Duke and Chris Sotelo both lost fumbles during the second team series. Duke would complete one first down pass, and Joseph Ontiveros would have a couple of first down runs to get the ball inside the 25, but that drive would end with an interception off a deflected pass.

During the timed series, the Eagles stopped the Rangers on their first possession after one first down, but then had more fumble problems, combined with a holding call. That left Pecos with 4th-and-long and having to punt from deep in their own end. The Rangers were stopped again on their second series, thanks in part to a deep snap on 3rd-and-4 that sailed over Rodriguez’s head, but problems with the snap for Pecos on third down would force the Eagles to put again.

“That’s something we’ve got to work on,” Henson said. “I think in some cases we had some kids trying to make big plays and weren’t careful enough, but we got a brand-new gauntlet last year to try and help the kids hold onto the ball. We just have to work a little on the center-quarterback exchange.”

“We ran the ball well, and I thought the offensive line did a good job of picking up their blocks,” Henson said. “I the live quarter, we didn’t look very good, but most of that was the quarterback exchange. But the line did a good job of picking up their stunts.”

Zubeldia almost picked up a first down on a pass off one of the bobbled snaps, while Rangers were able to use a 29-yard run by Bryce Williams off a bobbled snap by Rodriguez to set up deep in Pecos territory before their final touchdown.

The sub-varsity games were also closer this week than they had been against Seminole. Pecos’ junior varsity, which allowed three scores to the first team unit in a 5-0 loss, allowed one to the Rangers’ first team and two to their second in a 3-0 defeat, while Pecos’ freshman, 7-1 winners in their first scrimmage, scored twice with their first team and once with their second in a 3-0 win over Greenwood.

The Eagles’ varsity will be at home again on Friday, for their 2007 season opener against Alpine. Pecos’ JV will go to Alpine on Thursday for their opening game, while the ninth graders start their 2007 season with a game Thursday afternoon in Fort Stockton.

Eagles able to outlast Mustangs

Height lost out to quickness in the finals of the Cantaloupe Classic Volleyball Tournament on Saturday night, as the Pecos Eagles were able to outlast the Andrews Mustangs and claim first place in their own tournament.

The Eagles went overtime in two wins and to the limit in the third, while also surviving blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five finals to beat Andrews, 27-25, 25-23, 18-25, 22-25, 16-14

“Both teams played extremely hard,” said Eagles’ coach Helen Kimbrough, “They had some beautiful hitters, and if God is willing and we make it to the playoffs, I’d like to play them again. They’re well coached, but at the end they started missing some serves.”

Andrews had three frontline players taller than any of Pecos’ girls, and the Eagles had trouble had times blocking senior Jeleah Ratliff and junior Katie White. But Pecos was able to get enough shots around the Mustangs’ blockers for points, while having a better night both on the back line and at the setter’s position to make up for the height disadvantage.

“I really credit the way they’re playing to the way they played this summer with the 5-1 (offense),” Kimbrough said. “You’ve got to adapt to what God gives you, and what he’s given us is quickness and the ability to hit the holes.”

The Eagles would never lead by more than two points until Game 5, when they rolled off seven straight points to wipe out an early 2-0 deficit. But a kill by Ratliff started a comeback by the Mustangs, who would finally tie the game at 9-all on a kill by White.

Jasmine Rayos would then block White to give Pecos back the lead, but Andrews would later tie the score again at 12-all and took the lead at 13-12 on a Ratliff block of Gabby Garcia. But Ratliff them sent a cross-court spike out of bounds and fell on her next kill attempt, getting Pecos to match point. They couldn’t close out the game, as Ratliff tied the score with a kill, but she then spiked a shot into the net for a 15-14 Eagle lead, and this time Pecos was able to end the game off a kill of a Mustang overset by Rayos.

Both teams had problems at times with calls by the officials. The Mustangs protested a couple of line calls and one spike by Rayos that appeared to go off the side pole, while the Eagles were hit with a series of net violations during the middle matches that gave Andrews free points.

“We must have been in the net at least 10 times,” Kimbrough said. But she added “I learned a long time ago, and sometimes it’s hard not to argue, but you can’t influence the officials’ call. All you can do is coach your best and keep the kids focused.”

The lead would change hands in all five games. In Game 1 the Mustangs would go ahead late by a 23-21 score, before kills by Garcia and Claire Weinacht tied the game. Andrews then got to game point on a bad dink by Allyson Salcido, but another Weinacht hit tied the score, and after Andrews avoided game point following a Cheyenne Carrasco spike, Pecos won on a block of a Sophie Rondan tip by Garcia and a bad spike by Ratliff.

The net violations began in Game 2 and helped Andrews take a 9-5 lead before Pecos went on a 6-1 run, including four kills by Rayos, to tie the game. The Eagles would then go on another 6-1 run to rally from a 22-19 deficit to win, this time thanks to a series of bad kills by Ratliff and Jaci Criswell.

But the Mustangs wouldn’t give away Games 3 and 4 at the finish. They took advantage of a bad serve by Garcia to break a 19-all tie in Game 3 and go on a game-ending 6-0 run, which included two kills at the finish by Ratliff, and in Game 4 broke a 22-all tie on a bad dink by Carrasco, an ace by Kenzie Morren and a kill by White.

“We kind of lost our focus for a while, and I had to get them back on what we worked on,” she said. “I’m trying to get them to play faster ball, but they need to play fast where it just comes natural for them. When we become hesitant, that’s when we make mistakes.”

While the Eagles had fewer bad sets than the Mustangs, and Ashley Ornelas was named the tournament’s outstanding setter, Kimbrough said Pecos does need to work on better placement of their sets against a taller team like Andrews.

“My setters have got to start beating the 6-foot blocks by setting the ball off the net instead of on the net. There’s no way a 5-6 girl is going to hit it over a 6-foot girl it you set it on the net, but if you set it back, then she’s got a chance to place the ball,” Kimbrough said.

Pecos opened up the tournament with bracket wins on Friday over Odessa High’s junior varsity, 25-15, 27-25, and Van Horn, 25-8, 25-6, to earn a bye in the Gold Bracket of the 12-team tournament. They ended up facing Fort Stockton and defeated their District 2-3A rivals by 25-14, 25-10 scores to advance to the finals against Andrews. The Mustangs had lost their opening game of the tournament to Fabens, but then came back to earn No. 2 seed behind Marfa in their bracket, and would beat Presidio and Marfa on the way to the tournament title match.

“We started out playing slowly,” Kimbrough said. “Odessa High came out with intensity, and they’ve got a good hitter, and another girl that really blocked well, so we had to learn how to hit around those girls and adjust our sets.

“After that game, we started playing well,” she said, adding that the 8 a.m. start for their match with OHS may have been part of the reason for the Eagles’ slow start. “We’re not a morning team. These girls are night owls, and I think in that game, we were still asleep.”

Against Fort Stockton, Pecos trailed only twice, at the start of both games. The Eagles tied it in Game 1 on a kill by Carrasco and went ahead to stay at 4-2 on a bad hit by the Prowlers’ Kryshna Alfaro. Fort Stockton did stage a mid-game rally, cutting a 16-6 lead down to 16-12, before Pecos closed things out with a 9-2 run.

Garcia and Weinacht had kills during the run, while Jamye Galindo had a block of the Prowlers Chelsea Bruno and Carrasco ended the game with a spike off Alfaro. In Game 2, the Prowlers’ lone lead was at 3-2 on an ace serve by Jessica Gonzales. But she then served the ball into the net to tie things up, and Rayos put Pecos ahead with a kill, then had two more spikes and a block of Alfaro for a 7-3 lead. The Eagles would later close things out with an 11-2 run.

Along with Ornelas’ setter award, Garcia was chosen as the Outstanding Hitter in the tournament, and Rayos was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Andrews’ Morren was named top defensive player, and White and Ratliff were also All-Tournament selections. Marfa’s Leah McWilliams and Brittany Serna and Fort Stockton’s Gabby Caballero were the other all-tourney picks.

Marfa beat Fort Stockton to win third place, while OHS’s JV defeated Fabens to claim the consolation bracket title. Monahans won first in both the junior varsity and freshmen divisions of the tournament. They defeated Pecos for the JV title, and beat the Eagles in the freshman tournament semifinals on Thursday, 25-23, 25-18, before winning in the title game over Midland Lee. Pecos’ ninth graders got third, with a 25-19, 23-25, 25-18 win over Midland High.

The four weekend wins improved Pecos’ varsity season record to 8-3 going into Tuesday’s dual meet in Alpine against the Bucks and the Fort Davis Indians.

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