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PORTLAND - Try as they might, the Victoria East football team just cannot seem to find a way to win.
This time it was Gregory-Portland that ran riot on the Titans. The Wildcats used big plays to take a three touchdown lead on their way to a 35-20 district victory Friday night.
East trailed 28-7 entering the fourth quarter. However, the Titans (1-5, 0-2) didn't quit as Gregory-Portland sought the blow that would finally knock them out.
"We played a good football team," said Victoria East football coach Roland Gonzalez. "They have established some success and they are playing with a lot of confidence. We came out, had our opportunities and we weren't able to execute on certain things. We're proud of our kids. They played hard. The bottom line is we fell a little bit short."
Gregory-Portland (6-0, 2-0) appeared to be driving for the decisive touchdown late in the third quarter when East sophomore Stephon Shelton intercepted a Tanner Geiser pass at the Titans 29 yard line.
Shelton's first interception of the season was the biggest play of the night for a Titans defense conceded many big plays on the evening.
Deondric Lofton took a swing pass 47 yards to the Wildcats 15 yard line to end the third quarter. That catch was the first of the night for the junior wide receiver. Jonathan Ortega caught 19 yard touchdown from Mark Cavazos.
Before Ortega's second touchdown of the night with 10:27 remaining, the Titans were 0-8 on third down conversions. It took an extracurricular effort from Ortega for the Titans to convert on third and 14.
Cavazos threw to the near sideline for Ortega. The sophomore avoided a tackle, before running around the field toward daylight. David Boyd got a block on the reverse side of the field. Ortega avoided another tackle attempt at the 2 yard line before squirting into the end zone.
Ortega finished with 193 total yards on the night. He had five catches for 119 yards and two scores, a rushing touchdown and another 68 yards on kickoff returns.
He said the Titans executed and played harder Friday, than in their 49-20 loss to Tuloso-Midway last week. However, he added the Titans must work harder if they are to pick up their first win in District 30-4A play.
"We played hard in the first half, but we came out with more spirit in the second half," Ortega said. "We tired to win."
Leading 28-14 after the Ortega touchdown, Gregory-Portland tried again to put the game away again.
With 7:30 remaining the Wildcats faced fourth and 5 from the East 18 yard line. Devin Bisby nursed a shoulder injury for most of the second half, but returned to the field to run for nine yards and a first down.
On the next play JD Schmidt fumbled the ball. East, dodging the knockout punch yet again, recovered at its own 10 yard line with 7:02 remaining.
Three minutes later, Ortega ran away from the Wildcats defense for his third score of the night. Facing fourth and 1 from the Titans 37 yard line Cavazos rolled right, pointed to his receivers to break off their routes, and it was the sophomore receiver who evaded his marker.
East missed the extra point, meaning the deficit was 28-20 with 4:40 remaining.
Bisby ran for 11 yards to move then chains. His second carry of the series was 32 yards off the right tackle to the end zone. The junior finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.
When East attempted an onside kick after Ortega's third touchdown the ball hardly went five yards.
Wyatt Fimbel was the Titans kicker in the preseason. Last month, the sophomore told the Advocate, he quit the football team because he believed his chances to play were minimal, so he focused soccer instead.
Leading by a touchdown, Gregory-Portland took over at its own 43 with less than five minutes left. This time, they were able to put the game away.
Gregory-Portland scored five touchdowns Friday night - Geiser, the backup quarterback ran for 172 yards and threw a touchdown. The Wildcats averaged 44 yards on their five scoring plays.
"It's emotionally draining when you give up big plays," Gonzalez said. "But we always talk to our kids about 'It's not the play that counts, it's what you do after the play. Our kids kept playing. We went into halftime and we told our kids we had 24 minutes to come out and play."
"Our kids felt good about it, our coaching staff felt good about it. We just weren't able to put enough points on the board."