Ft. Stockton Beats Austin 21-13

Friday night’s season opener had a different feel in Central El Paso at Austin High School’s R.E. McKee Stadium.

The first noticeable difference was that Austin’s fans were placed on the opposite side of the stadium from where they usually sit. Panther fans are used to sitting on the bleachers across the press box bleachers, because of the tradition of them being able to enjoy their prestigious and proud A on the mountain as well as their symbolic tower, as they enjoy the game. The second difference was that this game began at 6pm – instead of the usual 7pm start time – due to Ft. Stockton traveling a far distance and for them to have their postgame bus ride home at a reasonable time. 

Last year, when both of these teams met for their season opener in Ft. Stockton, the Austin Panthers had a disappointing 18-15 loss in which they wanted revenge for this season. Both teams began the game with some first-game jitters and some rust they had to shake off. However, on their second drive of the game, Austin found paydirt, as Jacob Marrufo dodged some Ft. Stockton Panther defenders to score on a 6-yard Touchdown run to make it 7-0, Austin, with 4:09 left in the 1st quarter. However, with only 21 minutes into the game and 2:32 left in the opening quarter, the game went into a lightning delay. 

After about a 50-minute delay, play resumed at about 7:10pm. The rest of the first quarter and majority of the second quarter were filled with defensive battles and physical play by both teams. It was a battle between two teams whose mascots are Panthers and both played very aggressive and passionately. Then, with 3:54 left before halftime, Ft. Stockton had their first score of the game with a 1-yard Touchdown run, to tie the game at 7-7. That was the last score of the half, as both teams went into halftime with a 7-7 tie game.

The next score of the game came in the middle of the 3rd quarter, when Austin’s Ruben Bustillos had a powerful 3-yard Touchdown run, but the PAT was missed. Austin took a 13-7 lead. That did not last long, though. With 2:57 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Ft. Stockton’s Corbin Luna busted out with a 43-yard dash to find the endzone to give the Panthers from Ft. Stockton their first lead of the game, 14-13.

Austin had a couple of opportunities to regain the lead, but penalties and mistakes prevented them from scoring for the rest of the game. The final score of Friday night’s matchup came with 3:59 remaining in the game, when Ft. Stockton’s Marco Garcia took matters into his own hands and legs, as he had a 6-yard Touchdown run. That extended Ft. Stockton’s lead and earned them the victory with a score of 21-13.

After the game, Coach Eric Pichardo of the Austin Panthers was not disappointed. Instead, he said, “we have a lot of things to fix, several bright spots, we gotta reinforce those, plus work on our weaknesses.” When asked about how he feels how his team performed, he said, “these guys played hard, I can’t ask for much more than that, we played hard.”

Next week, the Ft. Stockton Panthers will host Alpine. The Austin Panthers will seek their first victory of the season, as they host the Parkland Matadors.

Story by Paul David Oliver