A game that should be remembered for a thrilling overtime will instead be remembered for one of the bigger brawls in Del Rio Rams history.
Eagle Pass defeated Del Rio, 24-17, in overtime to clinch the fourth and final spot in District 29-6A Friday night. However, immediately after the game concluded, Eagle Pass players planted an Eagles flag at midfield at Walter Levermann Ram Stadium as they had done two years ago.
This time, the Rams responded as the players charged the Eagle Pass team. Coaches, administrators, San Felipe Del Rio CISD law enforcement and law enforcement officers from other agencies, which were on hand for Military and First Responders Appreciation Night, quickly moved in and separated the two groups before any serious damage could be done.
Just as the Rams were leaving the field, Eagle Pass’ Jacob Ruiz, who caught the eventual game-winning touchdown in overtime, was seen waving “good-bye” to the players, fans and coaches. That triggered a second surge by Del Rio’s players that again had to be broken up.
The melee put a damper on what was a classic between the two rivals separated by less than 60 miles.
Del Rio struck first in the opening quarter as running back Ivan Basurto was able to bust through the middle of the line and race 46 yards for the touchdown. Donny Lewis added the extra point, and the Rams led 7-0 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.
That touchdown would be the lone score of the first half as the defenses for both teams stiffened and kept the other off the scoreboard.
When Eagle Pass got things going, thanks to a 29-yard pass from Allan Rodriguez to Carlos Santos and a 17-yard scramble by Rodriguez, Del Rio answered with Ricky Cedillo making a diving interception to turn back the Eagles.
Penalties helped bring an end to the Rams ensuing drive, which ended with a punt, by the Rams held the Eagles to just 12 yards on their ensuing drive and forced an Eagle Pass punt.
Eagle Pass looked to catch a break with six seconds left in the half as the Eagles recovered a Basurto fumble, but the Rams pressure forced a pair of incompletions to bring an end to the first half.
The Eagles wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in the second half as Eagle Pass needed just four plays to cover 65 yards and score, capping the drive with a five-yard scoring run by Saul Peralez. Eric Ramirez’s kick then tied the game at 7-7.
After another Rams punt, Eagle Pass took the lead as Ramirez hit on a 27-yard field goal attempt to put the Eagles up, 10-7, with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Eagle Pass’ defense came up big again as they stopped Del Rio for a five-yard loss after the Rams attempted a fake punt from their own 40-yard line. However, turnabout was fair play as a wild fake punt attempt resulted in the Eagles being stopped short of the first down marker and turning the ball back over to Del Rio.
The Rams took advantage. Quarterback Matt Mendez, who had attempted just four passes up to that point, hit wide receiver Ricky Haynes for a 47-yard gain to the Eagles’ nine-yard line. Del Rio would get as close as the five-yard line before Lewis came on and drilled a 22-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Eagle Pass looked to put together an answer, but on third-and-five from the Rams’ 31, a poor handoff and a big hot by Andrew Garza resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Jesus De Luna at the 36-yard line.
Del Rio set about trying to take the lead again.
The first big play was a 17-yard strike from Mendez to Sergio Mireles that moved the Rams into Eagles territory. Two plays later, Basurto broke loose again, barreling down the far sideline for 37-yards down to the Eagle Pass three-yard line.
After Mendez was stopped on first down, Basurto bulled his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Lewis’ kick then made it 17-10 with just over a minute left to play.
Then came Eagle Pass’ big return. A simple reverse on the ensuing kickoff sprang Santos for a huge gain before he was finally brought down at the Rams’ 27.
Eagle Pass methodically made their way down the field, but the Rams defense again put the pressure on when it mattered and forced back-to-back incompletions to leave Eagle Pass with fourth down at the 11-yard line with 10 seconds remaining.
Undaunted, Rodriguez found Ruiz for the score, and Ramirez’s kick tied the game at 17-17, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Eagle Pass won the toss and elected to go on offense first. On third down, Rodriguez lofted a pass to the end zone where Ruiz was able to outmuscle the Del Rio defender for the ball for the score. Ramirez’s kick gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead, but Del Rio still had a chance.
Del Rio stuck with its running game, but two short runs and a holding penalty set the Rams up with a third-and-16 from the 31-yard line. Mendez tried one more pass, but Eagle Pass made the interception and set off the Eagles celebration.