AP NEWS

Veterans Memorial beats Laredo Martin in 5A Division I playoff

November 18, 2018

Two perfectly executed fake punts keyed two Veterans Memorial touchdown drives Saturday as the Patriots held off hard-charging Laredo Martin in a 35-33 win Saturday at Rutledge Stadium in a Region IV-5A Division I playoff game.

It was Veterans Memorial’s first postseason victory in its first season as a varsity program.

Laredo Martin cut the Patriots’ 28-13 halftime lead to 28-26 with two third-quarter touchdowns. Veterans Memorial, which had been stopped on four straight three-and-outs in the second half, faced a fourth-and-3 at the Tigers’ 49 midway through the fourth quarter.

Memorial’s Robert Garcia, who lined up in punt formation, took the snap, looked across the middle and completed a pass to a wide-open Simeon Woodard around the 40-yard line. Woodard hauled in the pass and raced to the Laredo 17 for a first down.

The play rejuvenated what had been a sluggish Patriots offense. Three plays later, tailback Imari Motley drove in from 4 yards out with 3:50 left. Silvestre Vaca Vaca’s extra point put the Patriots up 35-26 with 3:50 to play.

“It all comes to fruition. We practice fake punts all the time; we just don’t ever use them,” Veterans Memorial coach Richard Mendoza said. “In games like this, that’s why you practice all the time and pay attention to details.”

The fake was the second of the game. Earlier, on a fourth-and-4 from its own 43 on the opening drive, upback Jason Lazo took the snap and ran off the left side for 12 yards and a first down.

That fake led to the first touchdown of the night, a 1-yard plunge by Jadin Sommers at the 6:42 mark.

Martin struck back on its first drive, going 70 yards in 14 plays to knot the game at 7 with 1:07 left in the first.

Vets Memorial led 28-13 at halftime behind quarterback Joseph Richardson, who was 9-of-14 passing for 123 yards and added 61 rushing yards to help pad the halftime lead as the Patriots scored on their final three possessions of the half after falling behind 13-7.

But Laredo Martin rallied in the second half. After attempting just one pass in the first half, the Tigers came out throwing. The first 12 plays were passes, and senior quarterback Mathew Duron went 12 of 25 for 184 yards and three touchdowns, all to fellow senior Jorge Castaneda, who caught seven second-half passes for 130 yards.

Castaneda’s final catch was a 39-yarder that drifted over the Patriots’ safety left hand and into Castaneda’s hands. The extra point reduced the Veterans Memorial lead to 35-33 with 3:10 left.

The Patriots faced a first-and-20 from their own 20 after a holding penalty. But Richardson and Motley teamed up for runs of 10, 6, and 5 yards to forge a first down with 2:08 left. Fullback Xavier Mitchell ran for 8 yards and then bulled ahead for 34 more and a first down with 1:24 left. Martin didn’t have enough time outs remaining to stop the clock.

“It’s hard to imagine right now, I haven’t thought about it. It hasn’t sunken in,” Mendoza said after the win. “I’m just real excited for our community, our kids, our parents, our administration. We couldn’t be happier.”

jflinn@express-news.net

AP RADIO
Update hourly