LORENA — Relying on a physical running game and a rock solid defense, La Vega went old school on Lorena and pulled off a 21-7 win.
Kendall Ratliff rushed 20 times for 104 yards and a touchdown and Kemoche Hobbs added 94 yards and a score on 14 carries as the Pirates improved to 3-0 with Friday night’s road win.
The biggest story for the Pirates was a defense that limited the Leopards to 61 yards.
“Our defense played real physical and fast and ran to the ball well,” La Vega coach Willie Williams said. “They’re the reason we won the game.”
Lorena (1-2) also got a tremendous effort from its defense especially Mitchell Donahue who intercepted three passes and broke up another fourth-down pass at the goal line. He set up the Leopards’ only touchdown in the second quarter when he returned an interception 47 yards to the 13.
“Mitchell is a great kid and a talented player,” Lorena coach Ray Biles said. “I’m not at all surprised that he had a great night. He sure saved our bacon out there.”
Though the Pirates tried to go long to Parrish Cobb and Brandon Benson, they misfired many times as quarterback Jamal Williams hit nine of 23 for 139 yards with four interceptions.
Cobb turned a short pass into a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter by making some superb moves. But La Vega would have liked to go deep on more plays.
“We wanted to go over the top more with Benson and Cobb out there,” Williams said. “Some of the picks were on Jamal and some weren’t. But he’s a sophomore and you can expect some ups and downs.”
The game featured Central Texas’ two longest tenured head coaches: Williams is in his 26th season at La Vega and Biles is in his 24th season at Lorena.
Mainly because of Donahue’s three interceptions, the Leopards managed to hang close to the Pirates as they went into halftime trailing 13-7.
The Leopards had a chance to score first when Colby Reed broke up the middle for 46 yards before La Vega’s Benson dragged him down at the 2.
The Pirates put up a terrific goal line stand as they nailed Jacob Spivey for a 3-yard loss on first down. The Leopards couldn’t move on the next two plays and Payton Howard missed a 24-yard field goal.
Donahue got his first interception to stop La Vega’s next drive but the Leopards were forced to punt.
The Pirates picked up three first downs to move to Lorena’s 31. Once again Donahue stopped them as he wrestled Williams’ pass away from Benson in the end zone for his second interception.
On their first possession of the second quarter, the Pirates drove 67 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
Cobb showed his considerable athletic ability as he caught a pass from Williams and spun away from multiple Lorena defenders before racing down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead with 9:46 left in the second quarter.
After Lorena was forced to punt again, La Vega moved 71 yards for its second touchdown. Ratliff finished it off by powering up the middle for a 10-yard score with 5:42 left in the second quarter.
However, Zach Grimm blasted through to block the PAT as La Vega held on to a 13-0 lead.
Donahue was on the spot again as he intercepted Williams’ pass and returned it 47 yards to the 13. Reed ran for a 6-yard touchdown as the Leopards cut La Vega’s lead to 13-7 with 1:18 left in the second quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Donahue stopped another La Vega scoring threat when he broke up Williams’ fourth-down pass at the goal line.
Driving 64 yards on the ground, the Pirates finally broke through with their third touchdown with 8:25 left in the game.
Facing fourth-and-one at Lorena’s 42, Hobbs sliced through the middle for 39 yards to set up his own 1-yard touchdown run. Ratliff ran for the 2-point conversion to push La Vega’s lead to 21-7.
“Our defensive kids played their hearts out all night,” Biles said. “But we didn’t establish enough offensively to keep the defense off the field. La Vega kept grinding it out methodically with their big offensive line and we weren’t able to stop them.”