|Foul Play Fumble (1989 E-E vs. Gregory Portland)||Tortillas Tossing Wildcats (1997 E-E vs. Calallen)|
The 1989 football season was a truly a remarkable year in the minds of many Yellow Jacket fans. This was in large part because of how deep the Jackets had managed to advance in the playoffs that year. In the history of Edcouch-Elsa football, only one other Jacket team had ever made it past the first round, but never four rounds deep to the State Quarterfinals game.
That year, the Jackets were not the most dominating force, but they did have a great deal of determination and heart. An early season loss to Weslaco High along with a tie with Donna shook the Jackets but did not leave them rattled. Their success that year hinged on their bone-crushing defense, which would guide them through seven straight wins and a bid into the 1989 playoffs. The Jackets would cruise past their first opponent, but would rely heavily on their defense during the regional championship game. In that game, the Jacket defense held Bastrop to zero points, and advanced to the quarterfinal round on penetrations. Making quarterfinals match up even more remarkable was their state-perennial powerhouse opponent.
By 1989, the Gregory-Portland Wildcats were a proven state contender and a force to be reckoned with in High-school football. For the past two decades, the Wildcats had conquered almost every single Rio Grande Valley team it had met in the playoffs. Although other Valley teams had faltered in the past, the 1989 Jackets would not sway so easily. The stage was set; G-P Wildcats were to face-off against the E-E Jackets @ Wildcat stadium on Saturday, December 9, 1989.
Over the years, the details of the game have long since faded away from the memories of even the most avid Jackets fans. However, there is one memory which only a small group of fans cling to and still swear by it today. The game featured two stellar defenses. It would come down to the wire, with the score knotted at 13 a piece with only a few minutes remaining. The battle for field position would determine the winner.
In the past, tied games did not go into overtime. The score would remain tied, but a pseudo winner would be determined based upon statistical figures. The most commonly used statistic was penetrations, or the number of times that one could enter the “red zone” of the opposing team. In the event that both teams had the same number of penetrations, the number of first downs would then determine the winner.
With only a few minutes remaining the game, even the number of penetrations were tied a 3-a-piece. However, the Jackets clinged to a major advantage; they had more first downs then the Gregory Portland Wildcats. As the Jackets were about to cross midfield, victory would be theirs if they could maintain possession of the football long enough for the game clock to expire. However, it was at this point that the most controversial play in Jacket football history occurred.
On this particular play, Coach Robert Vela called for a fullback dive, which had been one of the more successful plays during the game. More importantly, the play would guarantee that at least another 25 seconds would roll off the clock. As quarterback David Martinez stepped back to hand off the ball, there appeared to be some sort of miscommunication on the play. The busted play forced Martinez to keep the ball and roll around the corner for some yardage. Being a determined athlete, Martinez was not content with a statistical victory, he had his sights set on the endzone. That vision would quickly be shattered as he encountered a GP defensive back. A left-to-right juke would set him free from the defensive back, but slowed him down enough for an oncoming linebacker to catch Martinez from behind. The fierce hit upon an unsuspecting Martinez by the linebacker jarred the ball loose as he came crashing to the ground. A mad scramble for the ball ensued as it bobbled towards the Wildcat’s sideline. After the dust had settled, the Wildcats were awarded possession of the ball near midfield with less than a minute remaining. Several plays later, a costly personal foul penalty (late hit) gave the Wildcats 15 desperately needed yards. In the following play, the Wildcats netted a run of 11 yards, the longest run of the night, which was good enough to give them their 4th, and game-winning, penetrations of the game.
There is one detail about this play that has been omitted from the story of the state-quarterfinals game because it has reached mythical proportions. In this mad dash to retrieve the fumbled football, witnesses from the stands claim that the ball was kicked back into play by a somebody standing on the Wildcat’s sideline after it had gone out-of-bounce. After these allegations surfaced, the coaches from Edcouch-Elsa reviewed the game film, but could not find any conclusive evidence as the play occurred just out of sight from the camera. Only the people standing near the sideline know how this event unfolded, but certainly nobody for Gregory-Portland is speaking.
In the following week, G-P would fall victim to A&M Consolidated in the State semi-finals game, ending their bid for a state championship. However, many die-hard Jacket fans still cling to the dream of what the 1989 E-E team might have done in that game.
The 1997 football season was unique for a variety of reason. For example, it was the 2nd time in the past five years that the Jackets had mustered a perfect regular season record. It was also the 2nd time in the past 10 years that the Jackets played in the Quarterfinals of the 4a state playoffs. For some diehard Jacket fans, this was the team that would avenge the shortcomings of the 1989 season. The Jackets were hell-bent on making the first State Champions appearance by a Rio Grande Valley Team since 1961.
The Jackets were a dominating force to be reckoned with, especially on defense. During the regular season, the Jacket defense pitched five shutouts and limited their opponents to a total of 36 points during the entire season. At the helm of the Jacket defense were two 4A all-state nominees. The defensive line was anchored by the outside pass-rushing threat of Ricky Salinas while the middle guarded by linebacker Joe Marichalar. Offensively, the Jackets relied heavily upon the speedy backfield which featured all-state nominee Chano Alvarado.
The Jackets continued to do what they did best after the start of the 1997 playoffs. The Jacket defense held their ground after an encounter with a tough Kingsville High in the bi-district round. The Area round match up pitted the Jackets against Pleasanton. For the second time, the Jacket defense held their opponents to seven points while the offense mustered enough points to advance. Surprisingly, the Regional round match up against Austin Lanier led to a Jacket defense shut-out and another win. The 1997 Quarterfinals match up was against our South Texas neighbor to the North, Corpus Christi Calallen.
The Calallen wildcats had already proven themselves to be a formidable opponent. In the previous 3 meetings, the Wildcats had outscored the Jackets 96 to 37. This was not to deter the Jackets. The Jackets would face off against the Wildcats on a chilly Saturday evening at McAllen Memorial stadium. Despite all the efforts, the final gun would signfy that the Wildcats were once again too much for the Jackets to handle. The Wildcats would lose the following week in a tight game to the eventual 4a state champions.
The winner and better team that night is not in question. However, what still remains a topic of discussion among some Yellowjacket fans and even a few of the Rio Grande Valley football fans that were in attendance is the actions of some of the Corpus Christi football fans that night. Their actions, which were not mentioned in the newspapers the following morning, could be described as an atrocious display of behavior and lack of sportmanship. After the final gun, Calallen fans and cheerleaders began tossing frisbee-like objects around the stands and unto the field. Indeed, their triumphs that night warranted a grand celebration. However, it was their peciular form of celebration that began raise a few eyebrows from some of the players on the E-E team and from members of a community that was 99% hispanic. It was not long before people began to realize that these frisbee-like objects were none other than tortillas--a type of food which is culturally associated as being part of the Mexican-American diet.
Banners, Streamers, and confetti all seem like adequate instruments to use in such a celebration. However, a large number of Calallen fans opted to celebrate by throwing tortillas. What would compel these fans to use tortillas? Some proponents to the topic have argued that tortilla tossing is a "tradition" at some of the big universities. In fact, throwing tortillas during football games and graduation ceremonies have been noted to have occurred at universities such as Texas Tech, Texas A&M Kingsville, University of Arizona, and BYU. Recently though, these tortilla tossing events have come under massive scrutiny by university officials. Their concern is not driven by the possibility that it may be tasteless and disrepectful to the Mexican-American and Native American groups. On the contrary, the "tradtion" has been curtailed for reason of practicallity. The tortillas often interfered with the game and were sometimes used as projectiles to attack fans of the opposite team. Besides, tossing thousands of tortillas was plain and simply wasteful. Most universities have gone great lengths to prevent tortilla tossing. In some cases, 15-yard penalities have been assess, fans have been escorted out of the arena, and a graduation ceremony was even rescheduled. For some people, such a longstanding "tradition" must be worth the penalities that follow.
A more interesting question is how longstanding are these traditions. One alumni from the University of Arizona, where such a tortilla tossing tradition was to have been established, had no recollection of it during his tenure at the university in the early 1990s. On the other hand, an Texas A&M Kingsville (fromerly A&I Kingsville) almnui from the early 1990s fondly remembers the tossing tortillas during their football games. However, there was no malintent in their "tradition." Being from a university that was predominantly hispanic, tortillas were a household item that were ideal for tossing. They were inexpensive (20 tortillas for one dollar), could be flung to great distances, and were made of soft texture to minimize any damage. Why not use tortillas?
Despite all the arguments about the tortilla tossing tradition, ulitimately, it boils down to intent. Was there any malicious intent on behalf of the Corpus Christ Calallen fans? Where the tortillas being tossed that chilly Saturday night in Mcallen Memorial stadium a peciuliar derritive of the practices from a university only about an hour away from Corpus Christi or were they a spiteful gesture against a team and community that was 99% hispanic? The real answer may never be known...
- Tortilla Tossing is an ugly 'tradition'
- Tortilla Tradition Shouldn't Be Tossed
- ASUA wants Flutter Fetti, not tortillas
- COLUMN: Beware of the BYU Tortilleros
- No tortilla trouble
- Tortilla tossing protested at graduation
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