DONNA — Donna High scored nine points, all on field goals, and clung to a six-point halftime lead at Brownsville Pace last week. The Vikings scored two second-half touchdowns, and Donna had no answer and lost.
“We ended up with three field goals last week, and we knew we couldn’t do that this week,” Donna High coach Ramiro Leal said. “We were going to take more shots on fourth down, because field goals weren’t going to hold up in the end.”
On its first possession of the game, Donna High faced a fourth-and-6 at the La Joya Palmview 27-yard line. Leal called a timeout and drew up a drag route for senior wide receiver Daniel Nino.
The gamble worked. The play ended with Nino’s first of two touchdowns on the night. Donna High defeated La Joya Palmview 31-21 in The Monitor’s Game of the Week on Thursday night.
“We knew we could convert them all,” Donna High senior quarterback Ryan Espinoza said. “I’m glad we took those shots. Last Thursday (against Brownsville Pace), we should have picked it up and should have gotten that ‘W.’ But we’ve turned the page, and we made plays tonight.”
La Joya Palmview (2-2, 2-1) won the turnover battle (one Palmview turnover to Donna’s two), but ill-advised mistakes prevented the Lobos from bearing much fruit. Palmview safety Freddy Flores picked off Espinoza on a third-down play in the first half, but the interception was nullified because of a roughing-the-passer penalty.
The Lobos were also without running back Mario Chapa for the entire second half due to injury. Chapa entered Week 4 tied as the top rusher in District 16-5A Division I.
“Turnovers cost us the game,” La Joya Palmview coach Margarito Requenez said. “We wanted to control the game, and they got some breaks today. They got a couple of key flags that we gave them. That roughing the passer led to them scoring. This game could have gone both ways.”
“When you’re facing a possession type ballclub like them, the time melts away,” Leal said. “If we’re driving down the field, we give it up and then they’re driving down the field, the game will finish around 9:30, like it did today.”
Nino made three catches for 79 yards and the two scores, which were his first of the young season.
“I thought we’d be successful against them, because we’re a physical team,” Nino said. “I watched film on them. They looked pretty good on film, but when I came out on the field, it was a little easier than I thought.”
Espinoza ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in addition to his two passing touchdowns to Nino.
“I’ve been playing with this kid for four years,” Espinoza said of Nino. “We’ve always had that connection. He’s like a brother to me.”
Donna (3-1, 2-1) defeating La Joya Palmview at Bennie LaPrade Stadium on Thursday was a continuation of a one-sided series dating back to 2008. Donna High now has seven wins in seven games against the Lobos. The teams used to play annually in an older iteration of 30-5A.
“I think that was in the back of our minds, but I kept on telling them about the importance of every game in a 10-team district,” Leal said. “Coming into tonight, there were three teams at 2-0, three teams at 0-2 and four teams somewhere in the middle. As time goes on, you’ll start to see some separation. Wins like these are crucial.”