Victoria East and Victoria West played in the third annual Battle for the Sword at Memorial Stadium on Friday. East won 54-48.
PHOTOS: Get more photos from Friday's Battle for the Sword here and here.
VIDEO: See the sights and sounds from Friday's game between Victoria East and Victoria West here.
It's fitting Randy Perez got to Roland Gonzalez before anyone else. All evening long, the two men matched wits against each other.
Perez, the defensive coordinator for Victoria West, and Gonzalez the head coach and offensive inspiration for Victoria East were in charge of units that constantly battled the other all night.
It was Gonzalez who was able to shake the hand of his opponent with the comfort of victory secured. Victoria East racked up 561 offensive yards en route to a 54-48 victory over the Warriors on Friday night.
Jonathan Ortega started his first game as quarterback for Victoria East and had a night few will forget. The sophomore threw for 288 yards, added another 167 on the ground and had a hand in an astounding eight touchdowns - four passing, three rushing.
"He's a very confident and gifted young man," Gonzalez said. "He had a great supporting cast around him. You mentioned Mark (Cavazos) earlier, who had some key blocks. Deondric Lofton did a great job, Cameron Williams, Cameron Schultz (as well). There was a large supporting cast that allowed him to do what he did as well as an offensive line."
East (2-5, 1-2) led 21-0 before the Warriors knew what hit them.
For the first time all season, the Titans scored first, and they just kept scoring. Ortega's 62-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Lofton with 23 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Titans a three touchdown lead.
At one point in the second quarter East led 34-6, before the Warriors (4-2, 1-1) fought back and made a game of things.
The Warriors ended the first half with a huge eight-play, 44-yard drive. With four seconds remaining Garrett Rother lofted a pass to the deep corner of the end zone. Victoria East's Albert Longoria jumped, but the inch-perfect pass found Anthony Navarro in the end zone for the Warriors to cut the deficit to 34-13.
Seconds earlier Rother overthrew Brandon Ellis on the other side of the field for what would have been a sure touchdown.
Victoria Independent School District Superintendent Robert Jacklich said at halftime that Longoria asked Navarro whether he caught the football. When the West junior wide receiver said he did, Longoria shook his hand in congratulations and the two teams left for their respective locker rooms.
"We were able to have lockdown coverages when we needed and contain the quarterback when he scrambled and stop the run up the middle," Longoria said. "We did what we had to do."
West cut the deficit to 34-26 late in the third quarter. A day after he celebrated his 16th birthday Gamarquis Girdy ran 43 yards for a touchdown with 8:29 left in the third. Six minutes later Rother and Navarro hooked up again, this time for a 43 yard touchdown.
Rother finished 12 for 29 for 216 yards and four touchdowns. He added another 130 yards and a rushing touchdown in defeat. But it was not enough, because there was little stopping the other quarterback in the game.
"We never lost confidence," said West junior running back Qualian Bryant, who had 12 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. "We just came out slow in the first half. If we would have played the whole game like we did the second half, we would have done wonderful."
Perhaps, but there was little stopping Ortega.
East made a slew of other changes Friday night. Starting quarterback Mark Cavazos was moved to wide receiver and played outside linebacker on defense. Lofton also lined up in the backfield. Sophomore Cameron Williams saw extended playing time as a wide receiver and senior Jace Mitchell moved from defensive end to middle linebacker.
"We wanted to come out and play against West as hard as we could, regardless of where we played or not," Mitchell said. "We wanted to execute and bring home the boot!"
That they did. West never led in the contest, though the Warriors did cut the deficit to 47-40 with 73 seconds left and Rother found Malcolm Peoples for an 11 yard touchdown with 1 second remaining.
East has been competitive in most of its games this year, but lacked the execution to finish plays, finish drives or finish off the game. If there is one thing, Mitchell, Ortega, and many others said Friday, it was the fact they were able to execute for 48 minutes.
"We had heart the whole week and we had confidence, more so," said senior left tackle Trevor Austin, who was named East's homecoming king Friday. "We knew what we were up against and we came out and executed."