PSJA North running back Juan Elizondo runs behind his blocker, including Vonzell Griffin (17) during the first half of Friday night’s home game against visiting Donna. Elizondo rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as Donna won 24-20.

--Photo by Henry Miller

Donna chalks up improbable win over PSJA North

High school football

“The Donna Redskins grew up Friday night.”

That’s what Donna Head Coach Ramiro Leal said to his group after Friday night’s improbable come-frombehind victory 24-20 over PSJA North on the road. Improbable because not only did the Redskins overcome a 20-0 deficit but also because it looked like this was going to be a blowout.

The game seemed to turn around on a single play – a 51-yard run by Donna Quarterback Hector Guerrero late in the second quarter that set up a touchdown run by Robert Guerra, pulling the Redskins to within 20-7 at the half.

“It was a different team after that,” Leal said. “There was more confidence, more heart.”

PSJA North received the ball to start the second half and fumbled during the Raiders’ first series. That set up a 19-yard scoring strike from the Redskins’ Guerrero to junior receiver Daniel Nino, and suddenly it was a 20-14 deficit.

“We just had more confidence,” said Guerrero, a junior. “We all gained more confidence and played Donna football – that was Donna football.”

The comeback, however, still wasn’t complete – all that was needed was a little trickery.

With time running out in the third quarter, and Donna facing a fourth-down-and 17 from midfield, Guerrero pitched the ball right to running back Eric Rangel, who stretched the play toward the sideline. Rangel then stopped and fired a long pass to a streaking and open receiver, Daniel Nino, for a 46-yard touchdown pass. Suddenly, Redskin confidence was everywhere.

“Let’s win this game,” Donna coaches exclaimed from the press box as excitement filled the visiting side of the stadium.

PSJA North Head Coach Marcus Kaufmann said that it was a frustrating loss for his kids, pointing out that looking at the numbers, one of them more than 400 yards of offense to just about 200 yards for Donna, would make people believe it was a Raiders’ victory.

“It shouldn’t have been even close,” Kaufmann said. “We were doing what we wanted. Even in the second half it was just two plays for them – but they came off glaring mistakes on our end. The kids came back the next day, and we’re telling them to keep doing what they’re doing, but we are going to work on the little things – those were the things that hurt us.”

PSJA North had three more opportunities; their final drive starting on their own 2 after a penalty. That drive started after a 26-yard field goal from Donna to up the lead to 24-20. The Raiders drove the ball upfield, but an offensive interference call on a ball thrown to the end zone and a holding call was too much to overcome.

“Donna took the lead and then they just played with so much more energy,” Kaufmann said. “It made it a little more difficult to sustain drives against them. On that last drive we went with our hurry- up spread and moved the ball – but a holding call and an offensive interference call hurt – but that last penalty was smart because the pass we threw was going to be intercepted.”

Donna’s Coach Leal said when he saw the spread offense coming out, he knew he had to decide whether to play it safe or not.

“That’s a pick your poison – do you drop back and let them move up the field or do you play them tight and watch them go deep,” he said. “The kids played well tonight. We’ll go back and see what we did well, and I’m a firm believer that you strengthen the things you are good at and try to correct mistakes.”

Turnovers played a key in the game – Donna recovered two fumbles and put points on the board following each one.

“We had opportunities but didn’t convert or made that little mistake that ended up being a glaring one,” Kaufmann said. “Again, you look at it on paper, and we killed them; but that’s not the way football works. Right now the kids need to work through those deals. In their minds it’s something big that they think they have to change, but it’s not.”

The PSJA North offense gained 417 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Randy Reyna completed 13 of 29 passes for 192 yards, while senior running back Juan Elizondo carried the ball 23 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Arturo Beltran was Reyna’s favorite target on the night, hauling in six passes for 109 yards.

“The kids are doing what we are asking them to do at 100 miles per hour,” Kaufmann. “We had 78 plays in the game, and they had around 40. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to score in the red zone but we make those mistakes that cost us. We’re going in the right direction now, we just need to eliminate those mistakes and make some minor changes, and go 100 miles per hour doing that.”

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