They might have graduated plenty of talent off last season’s playoff team including quarterback Deandre Pickett-White, but the Southwest Eagles look like they haven’t missed a beat.
This following Friday night’s 47-6 thrashing of Varela at Tropical Park in a District 15-8A opener for both teams. The win kept Southwest perfect at 4-0, 1-0 while the Vipers fell to 2-1, 0-1.
Unlike last year though when Pickett-White (Alcorn State), led a potent offense, it was the defense that dominated on this night for Southwest as the Eagles front seven virtually lived in the Varela backfield all night long.
That’s because Varela quarterback Jonathan Aburto was a virtual bulls-eye for Eagles defenders as he was sacked 10 times for 63 yards in losses, with Ilan Jorge and Joel Delgado leading the way with three each.
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“Ten sacks? Man that’s some playing,” said Southwest coach Tim Neal, who spent a lot of the night sitting on the bench having just undergone an emergency appendectomy on Tuesday. “We started the season by saying that defense and special teams would be the key, and they’ve really done the job. Ilan and [defensive end] Willie Brown told me the defense was going to have a big night, and they were right.”
All of the lost yardage in sacks left the Vipers with minus 70 yards on the ground for the evening thus their 85 passing yards meant they totaled just 15 yards of offense.
“This is all of our hard work paying off with what we got done out there [Friday night],” Jorge said. “What we’re taught to do is never run away from a block, always go through it, we compressed the pocket and made them come to us. It works every time and you saw that out there tonight.”
Southwest got things cooking on its second possession when quarterback John Jaramillo hit James Barnes for a 25-yard touchdown with 5:14 left in the first. After Aburto was sacked twice on the next drive, Viper punter Santiago Velez was backed up in his own end zone and the snap sailed over his head for a safety.
The Eagles’ ensuing possession following the free kick resulted in a five-play, 52-yard with running back Gianni McCrea the catalyst with a 31-yard run and a 3-yarder for the score to make it 16-0 as the first quarter closed.
The Eagles’ defense then got in on the scoring act midway through the second quarter when, once again under intense pressure, Aburto floated a pass in the flat that C.J. McWilliams picked off and bolted 22 yards for the pick-six to make it 23-0.
“I just read the quarterback all the way and got a great jump on it,” McWilliams said of his big play. “It was a dream night for us for a unit. Everybody came out and did their jobs, and it’s all good when that happens.”
Leading 40-6 with six minutes left, it was only appropriate that the Eagles’ defense finished the night in style when Nathan Perdomo stepped in front of a Aburto pass and returned it 18 yards for a score to get the remainder of the contest going to a running clock.
25 - (-70)
SW-Barnes 25 pass from Jaramillo (Garcia kick)
SW-Safety, punt snapped out of end zone
SW-McCrea 3 run (Garcia kick)
SW-McWilliams 22 interception return (Garcia kick)
SW-FG Garcia 41
SW-Tutson 4 run (Garcia kick)
VAR-Stringer 37 pass from Aburto (kick failed)
SW-Monterrey 52 kickoff return (Garcia kick)
SW-Perdomo 18 interception return (Garcia kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- VAR: Aburto 13-(-37), Velez 1-(-23), Morgan 11-(-10). SW: Worley 3-(-10), Jaramillo 5-16, Rodriguez 3-22, Tutson 9-27, Mccrea 4-53.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- VAR: Aburto 9-20-2, 85. SW: Worley 1-1-0, 0, Jaramillo 6-15-1, 87.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- VAR: Valdez 1-(-4), Munroe 2-9, Torres 2-39, Stringer 4-41. SW: Tutson 2-7, McWilliams 1-11, McCrea 1-22, Barnes 3-53.