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Highlands dedicates shutout to injured safety

September 21, 2018

No. 6 would have been proud to see the zero on the scoreboard.

Highlands honored senior safety Rudy Aragon in more ways than one Thursday night, first placing “6” decals on its helmets for its District 13-5A-I opener at Alamo Stadium. Then the Owls’ defense dominated Jefferson in a 20-0 win, the team’s first shutout in two years.

Highlands coach Hank Willis said Aragon, a returning starter who wears jersey No. 6, suffered a neck injury in the Aug. 30 season opener against Corpus Christi Miller and likely will not return to the field this year. Willis said Aragon has been hospitalized since last week with complications from the injury.

“We did it all for Rudy,” Highlands linebacker John Stevenson said. “He would be really happy.”

The win was the first of the season for the Owls (1-2, 1-0 district), who earned their fourth consecutive win against the Mustangs (1-3, 0-2). Jefferson kept the game close in the first half thanks to interceptions in the red zone by Micah Garcia and Itler Mbula, but could not muster much of an offensive attack against a Highlands defense that was shorthanded but spirited.

The Mustangs finished with fewer than 200 total yards, lost a fumble, and committed three turnovers on downs. They marched as far as the Owls’ 4-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but had a touchdown down negated by a holding penalty, then threw incomplete on fourth down.

“It was extremely frustrating,” said Garcia, who rushed for a team-high 64 yards on 16 carries. “We have the right tools. We’re just not executing to our true potential.”

Jefferson had just as tough of a time containing Highlands’ Nigel Cervantes and Dre’Chan Moody. The latter helped set up all three touchdown runs by the former, finishing with nine receptions for 132 yards and a tone-setting punt return early in the second quarter.

Moody fielded a punt near midfield and took it all the way to the Jefferson 2. Cervantes, a junior who rushed for 130 yards on 22 carries, broke a scoreless tie with a short scoring run on the next snap.

Cervantes had TD runs of 16 and 13 yards in the third quarter. Both immediately followed key catch-and-runs by Moody.

“He’d get some yards and I’d put it in,” Cervantes said. “Teamwork all along.”

The team’s motto for the game was “Play for 6,” which was something to rally behind after a rough start to the season for Aragon and the rest of the Owls. They lost 41-18 to Miller and 42-6 to Southside the next week. Then came a bye week in which Aragon was hospitalized.

Even though Aragon could not be on the field Thursday, he was with his teammates in spirit.

“It motivated us,” said Moody, a fellow senior. “We left it all on the field for him.”

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