NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi famously said “football is a game of inches.”

When Edcouch-Elsa and Rio Grande City met Friday night at Joe R. Sanchez Stadium, the game came down to 72 inches to be exact, as the Yellow Jackets escaped with a 34-28 non-district victory.

Trailing by one-point with just over a minute to play, Edcouch-Elsa drove down deep into RGC territory. Faced with a 4th-and-2 at the Rattlers 12-yard line, Yellow Jackets head coach Christian Navarro chose to keep his offense on the field instead of attempting a field goal.

The decision paid off as Brandon Cortez converted on a quarterback keeper off right tackle for 4 yards. Two plays later, Edcouch-Elsa running back Shawn Alvarado put the Yellow Jackets ahead for good as he received a handoff and sprinted toward the left pylon for the score.

It was a hard-fought win for Edcouch-Elsa in its debut as the Yellow Jackets had to overcome self-inflicted wounds in the form of six turnovers. In each half, Edcouch-Elsa gave away two fumbles and one interception.

Rio Grande City capitalized on the opportunity. The Rattlers overcame a 20-7 halftime deficit to steal the lead 28-27 midway through the fourth quarter.

RGC made it happen behind the phenomenal play of Rattlers senior running back Marc Perez, who scored three rushing touchdowns on the night, including a 54-yarder to open the scoring for his team. Perez consistently required multiple defenders to bring him down each time he touched the ball.

RGC junior quarterback Kevin Guerra also flashed with a 47-yard touchdown throw to Allan Garcia, which pulled the Rattlers closer.

But late in the game with possession and a one-point lead, RGC coughed up the ball after a crushing hit from Edcouch-Elsa defensive back Ryan Whalen. It was exactly what the Yellow Jackets needed — a chance.

Edcouch-Elsa then leaned on the legs of Alvarado and senior Justin Galan to move the offense into scoring range, a place where Galan had no problem as he led his team with three rushing touchdowns.

Edcouch-Elsa (1-0, 0-0) will be back in action at 7 p.m. Thursday as the Yellow Jackets host Donna North for another non-district game.

Meanwhile, Rio Grande City (0-2, 0-0) is set to open District 14-5A Division I play as the Rattlers welcome San Antonio Southwest Legacy to Joe. R. Sanchez Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff next Friday.

bramos@themonitor.com