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IH-35 RIVALRY GAME
RUNNING GAME, STIFF DEFENSE PROPELS COTULLA TO SECOND STRAIGHT WIN OVER DILLEY IN ANNUAL SERIES
For a second straight season the Cotulla Cowboys have earned IH-35 bragging rights over their neighbors to the north as they took a 28-14 win over the Dilley Wolves last week in the 2023 edition of the schools’ annual rivalry.
Coming off a pair of difficult losses, Cotulla needed the win while Dilley was riding high after posting a 2-0 mark with wins over Sabinal and Boerne Geneva.
Cotulla’s back-to-basics approach in their run game proved to be the difference in the contest as the Cowboys simply lined up and and ran the ball to victory.
“Friday night was a big win for our program,” CHS Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Esteban Rodriguez said. “It had been a tough two weeks coming up on the short end against some really good football games.
“We had a great week of practice leading up to the big game. Our boys were mentally focused, and trusted the game plans the coaching staff pushed forward.”
Rodriguez said that following the loss to Bandera, he met with his staff and told them they were going to simply their approach this week.
“I told them we were not going to do anything fancy, we were going to line up our best, and come straight at their defense,” he said. “We implemented a variation of our ‘Utah Strong’ formation, where we put our biggest, strongest athletes on the field.
“As I mentioned, it was nothing fancy, just good Ol’ smash-mouth football. I am a firm believer that football games are won in the trenches, not in 7-on-7; it was evident on Friday night.”
Cotulla’s offensive spark was also helped by the return of starting quarterback Alex Medina. The junior ran for 155 yards on 25 carries and had two touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.
Despite the win, Rodriguez said his team was far from flawless Friday night.
“Unfortunately, a few costly penalties on converted fourth downs, and a botched snap stalled a couple of our drives throughout the course of the game,” he said. “Defensively, our staff put together a great game plan, with our main focus trying to stop their great running back, Ethan Santos.”
Cotulla limited the Wolves to a mere 146 yards of offense and three first downs. Of that total, 105 yards came on two plays for Dilley.
“On the first play of the game, Dilley converted on a deep ball for 32 yards that was nearly intercepted,” Rodriguez said. “Then, to finish out the third quarter, we had a mix up in the secondary, giving up a 73-yard touchdown pass to speedster Dorian Aranda.
“As for their rushing, they finished the night with minus four yards. Our defense played very physical, but maintained discipline to their assignments. As we prepared all week, we told our boys that they must stop the Crossbuck, and the Trap in order to come out victorious.”
Defensively, Cotulla also forced three turnovers. Senior Robert Sanchez had four total tackles, two tackles for a loss and two sacks. Junior Eric Aldaco tallied seven total tackles, one quarterback hurry, and a fumble recovery.
“I found it very interesting that everybody doubted us leading up to this match up. It is evident that nobody takes the strength of schedules into consideration when making predictions,” the coach added. “However, like I’ve told my boys all season, if we sit and dwell on the opinions of others, we will accomplish nothing.
“This is why I truly believe, ‘Respect is Earned, Not Given’.”
Dilley Athletic Director and Head Football Coach David Silva says knew the task at hand going into the contest and says his team simply didn’t do what was needed to win.
“We knew it was gonna be a physical ball game,” he said. “We had to stop their power run game, and we didn’t.
“Rival games are fun and when they’re over, you have to focus on the next game and make sure your team doesn’t come out flat and get ready for the next opponent.”
Silva said he is focused on moving his team on to this week and taking on a tough Freer squad.
“Freer is 3-0 and we have to come out and execute in all phases of the game,” he said. “The keys will be for our offensive line to come off the ball and hold blocks longer, take care of the ball, and get better with some of our special teams. “This is the last tune-up game before we start district play the following week at Poth.”
Thing started out well enough for the Wolves as they opened with a big pass play and then scored when quarterback Seth Cano connected with Joe Aguilar from nine yards out in the first to take a 6-0 lead.
Cotulla would counter late in the first when Dadrian Deleon capped a Cowboys’ drive with a one-yard run. Rene Barrera booted the extra point and Cotulla took a 7-6 lead.
The Cowboys would seize command in the second quarter as Medina guided the team to another scoring drive and capped it with an eight-yard scoring run. Barrera connected on another conversion attempt and Cotulla pulled ahead 14-6.
Cotulla extended its lead midway through the third as Marco Benavidez punched it in on another Cowboys possession. Alex Medina went in on the conversion attempt and the Cowboys surged to a 22-6 lead.
On the verge of allowing the game to get away, Dilley fought back when Cano found Aranda on a 73-yard strike late in the third quarter. Aranda’s score and Santos’ successful two-point conversion run pulled the Wolves to within a score at 22-14.
The game would remain close until late in the fourth when Medina sealed the win for Cotulla on a 26-yard touchdown run. The score put the Cowboys comfortably ahead with time running down on a Dilley offense that could not muster any kind of consistent momentum.
Cotulla rolled up 297 yards of offense and 22 first downs and the team ran for 267 yards.
The Cowboys will hope to avoid a big letdown this week as they host the Carrizo Springs Wildcats during Homecoming week. The Wildcats have struggled to a 1-2 mark this year but are coming off their first win of the year, a 27-21 decision over Hebbronville. Carrizo Springs lost their opener 3-0 to Lytle and were routed 34-6 by Hondo. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at Myers Memorial Stadium in Cotulla.
Dilley will hit the road this Friday to take on an unbeaten Freer Buckaroo squad. Freer opened the year with a 42-16 decision over Banquete, edged by Agua Dulce 18-14 and topped Bruni 27-22. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Buckaroo Stadium in Freer.