The Eastside Memorial Panthers’ homecoming night wasn’t off to a great start.
Down 34-0 midway through the second quarter to the Navarro Early College Vikings (1-2), the Panthers (0-3) were already attempting to dig themselves out of a hole before a violent brawl broke out, resulting in the ejection of nine total players between the two teams.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Panther head coach Luis Becerra said. “We’ve got to understand that when things get out of hand, we can’t lose our composure.”
The punch-throwing helmet-flying kerfuffle exemplified the aggression and tension the two teams showed in the first half; 19 total first-half penalties, including five personal fouls committed by the Panthers, totaled 137 penalty yards before halftime.
“It’s something we’ve got to clear up,” Navarro head coach Lasaro Lumbreras said. “That’s something we’ve been trying to fix since day one.” Lumbreras declined to comment on the scuffle ejecting five of his players, saying only “We’ll let it play out as it may.”
Per UIL rules, any football player ejected from a game is required to miss at least the first half of the following game as well.
But the mid-quarter brouhaha, and loss of starters on both teams, had little effect on the outcome of the game.
Even though Navarro’s starting quarterback and running back were both ejected, Navarro’s defense still held Eastside to -2 total yards and one first down for the half while recovering five turnovers.
However, Eastside’s turnovers were seldom forced. The Panthers often struggled to cleanly get a snap off, sending senior quarterback Robert Sanchez chasing after balls over his head on five instances, failing to recover three of them.
The Vikings didn’t start a drive behind the 50-yard line until they received the second-half kickoff.
Avoiding any more misery to an already abominable night, the officials allowed the second-half clock to run freely, only stopping for timeouts and injuries. Navarro scored late in the fourth quarter to make the final score 49-0.
Even in the second half, with a running clock and reserve players in, Eastside failed to pick up a first down and only ran six total plays.
When asked if there was anything positive Becerra could take away from the chaotic night, he gave a stark and swift response: “We finished.”