Friday, October 9, 2015

Pioneer Diamondbacks Use Second Half Comeback to Edge Rattlers

By Kenneth Roberts
Freelance Writer

The Sharyland Pioneer Diamondbacks used a late third quarter uprising, triggered by a blocked field goal return for a touchdown, to achieve a 20-10 comeback victory over the Rio Grande City Rattlers at Thompson Stadium in Sharyland Thursday night.

The Diamondbacks drew first blood with a field goal early in the second quarter, but the Rattlers caught fire to take a 10-3 halftime lead. The Rattlers had two scoring chances deep in Pioneer territory in the third quarter, but the second opportunity ended with a blocked field goal that the Diamondbacks returned 72 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Moments later, the Diamondbacks scored immediately to take a 17-10 lead after returning an interception to the Rattler 3.

The Pioneer defense dominated the fourth quarter, holding the Rattler offense completely in check. The Diamondbacks put the game out of reach with a field goal midway through the final stanza.

The Rattler offense was productive in the second quarter as running back Casimiro Olivarez broke loose for runs of 46 and 38 yards and quarterback Jason Perez threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Aaron Leal.

After a punt pinned the Rattlers inside their 10 midway through the first period, the Diamondbacks set up shop in Rio territory and drove to the 22. The Rattler defense stiffened and forced a 37-yard field goal attempt by Leo Rios that was wide to the right.

Later in the opening quarter, the Diamondbacks drove within inches of the Rattler goal line. On third and goal inside the 1, Pioneer quarterback Alejandro Ramirez kept the ball through right tackle, but was stopped inches short of the goal line. On fourth and goal, Salvador Gonzalez took a handoff and tried to dart to his left, but was upended in the backfield at the 4, abruptly ending the Diamondback threat.

Early in the second quarter, the Diamondbacks drove to the Rattler 18, but the stubborn Rio defense yielded no more ground. A false start penalty on fourth down moved Pioneer back to the 24, but Leo Rios kicked a 41-yard field goal with 8:59 left until halftime to give the Diamondbacks a 3-0 edge.

The Rattlers quickly responded as Casimiro Olivarez broke loose through the middle for a 38-yard gain to the Pioneer 26. Quarterback Jason Perez kept the ball around left end for an 11-yard pickup to the 15. Three plays later, Perez connected with Aaron Leal over the middle just across the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 6:10 remaining until intermission.  Joel Duarte booted the extra point to give the Rattlers a 7-3 advantage.

Late in the second quarter, Olivarez slashed through right guard and exploded into the secondary for a 46-yard gain to the Diamondback 31. On fourth and six, a personal foul penalty against the Diamondbacks gave the Rattlers a first down at the 12. A defensive holding penalty against Pioneer then advanced the ball to the 6. On the final play of the first half, Joel Duarte kicked a 23-yard field goal to give the Rattlers a 10-3 lead going into intermission.

The Rattlers gained a golden opportunity early in the third quarter when they recovered a fumbled punt at the Pioneer 28. On third and seven, however, a quarterback sack for a 14-yard loss moved the Rattlers back to the 39.

Moments later, Rio’s free safety, Ivan Garcia intercepted a pass inside the Pioneer 25 and returned the ball to the 19, giving the Rattlers great field position once again. On third and 11, a deep pass was batted away near the goal line. The Rattlers then attempted a 37-yard field goal, but the roof caved in as the kick was blocked and Anthony Jimenez returned the ball 72 yards for a Diamondback touchdown with 3:24 left in the third period to tie the game at 10-10.

On the first play of the ensuing Rattler possession, Pioneer defender Romeo Lopez intercepted a pass inside the Rio 35 and returned the ball all the way to the 3. On first and goal, Brandon Casas took a handoff around right end and darted into the end zone untouched for a three-yard scoring run with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter to give the Diamondbacks a 17-10 advantage.

An interception at the Rio 33 gave the Diamondbacks another opportunity, but the Rattler defense snuffed out the threat, stopping a fourth down running play for a 15-yard loss at the Rattler 43.

With roughly seven minutes left in the game, the Rattlers faced a fourth and two situation at their 34 and decided to gamble, but a running play was stopped for a one-yard loss, giving the Diamondbacks the ball at the Rio 33. Moments later, Leo Rios booted a 42-yard field goal with 5:40 remaining to increase Pioneer's margin to 20-10.

On the first play of the ensuing Rattler possession, an interception at midfield was returned to the Rio 11. The Diamondbacks reached the 5, but a running play was stopped at the 7 for a two-yard loss. Pioneer lined up for a 24-yard field goal try, but the holder was tackled at the 17 for a 10-yard loss after fielding a high snap and attempting to run around left end.

Moments later, the Diamondbacks left the field with a hard-earned 20-10 comeback win, staying undefeated with a 6-0 overall record and a district mark of 2-0.

No team or individual statistics for either the Rattlers or Diamondbacks were available as of Friday afternoon.

The Rattlers, now 2-4 overall and 0-2 in district play, will host Valley View on Saturday night, Oct. 10 in their Homecoming game. The Diamondbacks will travel to Edinburg to face the potent Vela Sabercats on Thursday evening, Oct. 8.

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