Thursday, November 5, 2015



By Kenneth Roberts
Freelance Writer

The Mission Veterans Memorial Patriots used a strong defensive effort to achieve a 14-3 victory over the Rio Grande City Rattlers in a rugged District 31-5A battle Thursday night at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium.
The Patriots improved their playoff seeding with the hard-fought win over the Rattlers.  The Patriots will face the undefeated Edinburg Vela Sabercats in the crucial regular season finale Thursday night. The loss eliminated all playoff hopes the Rattlers had entering the contest.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots scored with less than four minutes remaining until halftime to take a 7-0 advantage into intermission. The Patriots added another touchdown midway through the third quarter, and the Rattlers got on the scoreboard with a 36-yard field goal by Joel Duarte with less than 90 seconds remaining in the third stanza.

The Rattlers had several promising opportunities, but could not penetrate the Patriot end zone. Patriot quarterback Landry Gilpin threw for one touchdown and ran for another score.
The Rattlers gained excellent field position after the game’s opening series when the Patriots badly shanked a punt that rolled dead at the Veterans 42 after traveling only nine yards. On third and 11, running back Gerardo Garcia took a handoff and raced toward the right sideline for a 12-yard gain to the 31 and a first down.

Two plays later, quarterback Jason Perez kept the ball to the right, raced toward the sideline, and broke several would-be tackles for a 15-yard gain to the 26. On fourth and five, Perez aimed a pass toward the right sideline, but a Patriot defender batted the ball away at the 15, turning the ball over on downs to the Patriots at their 26.

A few minutes later, a deep pass by Landry Gilpin across the middle was intercepted by Rattler defender Ivan Garcia and returned almost 20 yards to the Patriot 26, but a holding penalty on the return forced the Rattlers back to their 49. On third and 15, a Rattler receiver was unable to make a diving catch of a deep pass at the Patriot 30.

Midway through the second quarter, the Patriots took over at the Rio 35 after a punt into a stiff wind sailed out of bounds after covering 23 yards. Four plays later, Gilpin connected with Roman DeLeon for a 12-yard completion to the 7. On first and goal, Gilpin dropped back, but scampered through right guard into the end zone for a seven-yard scoring run with 3:55 left until halftime to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

Moments later, the Patriots took over at the Rio 31 after blocking a punt. On fourth and one at the 22, Gilpin scrambled to his right but was dropped at the 26 for a four-yard loss.

The Rattlers gained excellent position when Jorge Hinojosa intercepted a pass and returned the ball 19 yards to the Veterans 46. On fourth and three at the 39, a deep pass was intercepted by a Patriot defender at the 16. The two teams then went into intermission by the Patriots still holding a 7-0 lead.

Aaron Leal returned the second half kickoff 45 yards to enable the Rattlers to start at the Patriot 49, but Rio couldn’t advance past the 41.

The Patriots then executed a 70-yard scoring drive, overcoming a major penalty and capitalizing on a couple of major penalties against the Rattlers. Gilpin connected with Roman DeLeon for a 17-yard completion to the Rio 40. On third and four, Gilpin hit Bobby Tovar in the right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard scoring pass with 6:11 left in the third quarter to increase the Patriots’ margin to 14-0.

Moments later, a bad snap and a fierce Rattler rush forced a shanked Patriot punt that rolled dead at the Veterans 15 after covering only nine yards. On third and 14, Perez aimed a pass toward the right corner of the end zone and the receiver made the catch, but was slightly out of bounds. Joel Duarte then kicked a 36-yard field goal to narrow the deficit to 14-3 with 1:24 left in the third period.

Early in the fourth quarter, Iram Galvan made a diving catch of a Perez pass at the Veterans 43 for an eight-yard completion, and a late hit penalty against the Patriots advanced the ball to the 28. The threat fizzled when Perez was sacked at the 45.

The Patriots drove to the Patriot 33 with the help of two 14-yard completions by Gilpin. Two plays later, Gilpin was sacked at the Patriot 46 for a 15-yard loss. With under 90 seconds remaining, a roughing the passer penalty gave the Rattlers a first down at the Patriot 39. The opportunity evaporated when quarterback Diego Garcia was sacked for a 13-yard loss at the Rio 48, and the Patriots then walked off the field as 14-3 victors.

No team or individual statistics for the Rattlers were available as of Monday afternoon. Landry Gilpin paced the Patriot offense with 229 yards passing and 54 yards rushing.

The Rattlers will conclude their 2015 season on the road this Friday night against the Sharyland Rattlers.