ELSA — Friday night’s matchup between Edcouch-Elsa and Sharyland High featured the top two defensive units in District 16-5A DII going head-to-head.

But the Yellow Jackets and their “Thunder Defense” made the game’s biggest play.

Trailing 34-33 with under a minute left in the game, Sharyland High had possession of the ball and was looking to kill the clock while picking up some yards on the ground. The Rattlers ran a jet sweep to the right, but waiting to make the stop was Edcouch-Elsa defensive end Matt Segura. The senior end wrapped up the ball-carrier, then ripped the ball out of his hands and proceeded to rumble downfield to the Sharyland 22-yard line.

Three plays later, E-E kicker Angel Crispin stepped up and drilled a 25-yard field goal with 18 seconds left to put the Yellow Jackets out in front for a 36-34 victory over the Rattlers.

“It was incredible, it was an incredible play. The crowd was yelling, Coach knew we needed the ball back, so I did whatever I could and I got the ball back. It felt awesome running the ball again, it felt good,” Segura said, thinking back on his days on offense as a freshman and sophomore.

Edcouch-Elsa head coach Chris Navarro said the team has come to expect game-changing plays from Segura, last year’s 16-5A DII Defensive Player of the Year.

“We’ve been telling the kids that big-time players step up in big-time games. Every single one of our top players contributed in every facet of the game,” Navarro said. “We’ve been telling the kids all year long, ‘Nobody believes in you,’ but we believe, I believe, and that’s been their war cry — ‘believe.’”

Making plays on the other side of the ball for the Yellow Jackets were running backs Jay Cardenas and Edward Cardoza. Cardenas finished with 188 rushing yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns, while Cardoza ran for 126 more. Fellow running back Shawn Alvarado added two rushing touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets.

“It was all my O-line,” Cardenas said. “They did everything they had to do and they got us into the end zone. I’m just glad they’re on my side of the ball.”

Sharyland High’s Benji Valdivia finished the game with one rushing touchdown and three touchdown passes — two to Mauricio Sanchez and one to Kevin Chavez. Chavez also scored on the ground during the fourth quarter for the Rattlers, giving his team a 34-33 lead with 5:16 remaining. But Edcouch-Elsa’s defense came through with the game-changing play by Segura.

“It’s back. The ‘Thunder Defense’ is back. We’re going to take one team at a time and work harder,” Segura said.

Edcouch-Elsa has won four of its last five games, improving to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in 16-5A action. The loss sends Sharyland to 4-3 on the year and 2-1 in district play.

Next up for the Yellow Jackets is a road test against Laredo Cigarroa at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Meanwhile, the Rattlers will prepare to face rival Sharyland Pioneer in “the Snakeskin Classic” at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard Thompson Stadium in Mission.

bramos@themonitor.com