Eagles 24-27 Mayas

It was a great day for a football game. The tone was set in the “Palillo” stadium to continue the activities for week 5 of the LFA Football tournament. The actors were more than ready. Eagles and Mayas knew perfectly what was at stake – win and take the leadership of the Suerox Division, or go home thinking about your damaged aspirations for the playoff dream.
The first quarter opened hostilities with the Eagles choosing to receive the football immediately. A not so wise decision, given that Vladimir Araiza, N. 33, muffed the kickoff and left the Mayas team in their own 1-yard-line mark. Raúl Mateos, N.18, started as QB and began making plays with his legs, giving the Eagles room to breathe and operate their first offensive series. Then, Mateos made the first connection with Araiza, N. 33, to grant a first down and keeping their attack close to midfield.
A couple of creative option plays showed the versatility of Mateos work, who put trouble to the Mayas defense, which struggled early in stopping N. 18. In steady control of the offense, and connecting with star wide receiver Billy Owens, N. 14, the Eagles offense looked promising in their first exhibition of the day. Still, Mateos tried to do much and, with the defensive pressure in his face, he showed poor accuracy in his passes, which continued to be an issue in the first half. It was clear that Mateos best attributes were his legs. That first offensive try was stopped, and the Eagles set their first punt of the evening.
It was the turn for the Mayas offense to take the field. They also started deep inside their own territory, but with tremendous offensive line work, they opened the field with a couple of running plays. Edgar Arroyo, N. 33, showed amazing speed and began taking control of the holes that his o-line provided him, exploding and eluding tackles. The first offensive series for the Mayas were a balance of running and passing plays that worked under an up-tempo rhythm without reunions. The result was a couple of consecutive first downs ,behind Arroyo’s legs, that kept damaging the middle of Eagles defense.
The defense put pressure on QB Marco García, N. 12, and made some big stops forcing a 4th opportunity at the 21-yard line, setting a FG for Mayas. The first points on the board were given by the leg of Mauricio Morales, N. 5. From then on, and in the course of the first half, the defenses took the leading role, paving the way for an amazing second half.
Written by: Daniel Cortés Martínez.

The Eagles kept trying with QB Mateos at the controls, and he felt the pressure of Mayas frontal defense, which forced him to use his legs again and again. Finally, a spark of passing game came with a connection to Marco Pacheco, N. 8, in the end zone, after Mateos scrambled out of trouble. However, an ineligible man down the field penalty denied the TD for the Eagles team. On the very next play, the fierce Mayas defense put pressure on Mateos and Isaac Gil, N. 91, sacked him, stopping the Eagles offense that stagnated after crossing midfield.

The Eagles defense took their own share of the defensive party that was taking place in the field. Carlos Salgado, N. 74, made two big plays stuffing the running attempts of Arroyo, N. 33. A couple of good passes made by García, which should have given them a good field position, were denied by costly penalties. Those mental mistakes cut the offensive rhythm for the Mayas, and allowed the Eagles defense to recover from their own hiccups. A vicious hit from LB Luis Enrique Bautista, N. 37, broke a great pass from García, N. 12, and the defenses were making their strong statements, and none of them seemed to capitulate.
The breaking-back penalties took away every opportunity that the Mayas had to increase their lead over Eagles. Still, Mayas running game was well established behind Arroyo and a late appearance of Omar Cojolum, N. 1. The consistency of the Mayas offense was clearly an asset, but they failed to score points when most needed. Kudos to Eagles defense for stopping the run in the Mayas trips to the red zone. LB’s José Luis Meza, N. 1, and Javier Arroyo, N. 52, earned a sack that took the Mayas out of the red zone. On the very next play, a deflected pass landed in the hands of Alfredo Castellanos, N. 28, who intercepted the ball and returned it to midfield. 
Mayas defense wasn’t behind and never took pressure away from Mateos, whose o-line collapsed quickly, over the edges with Mauricio Lopez, N. 97, and Isaac Carreño, N. 98, hunting constantly for Mateos’s head. The Eagles failed to take advantage of Castellanos’s interception, and were forced to punt. Mayas took over at what was probably the last series of the first half. Then again, Cojolum escaped with a burst of speed, gaining 74 yards in the effort. Suddenly, the Mayas were in great position to close the half scoring points. A pass from Marco García, N. 12, to Aaron Williams, N. 6, was denied a TD due to an offensive interference penalty from Williams. After that, the Mayas were left completely out of FG range and the opportunity to go to rest with more points on the bag vanished. The defensive play prevailed on the first half.
The Mayas opened the second half at offense, and continued to pound the middle of the Eagles defense with running plays. Arroyo, N. 33, was clearly the workhorse gaining constantly yardage and making big plays – like a 33-yard run early in the 3rd quarter. It seemed like the Mayas got out of the gate with a new mentality as they began to make plays on offense. A big pass from Garcia, N. 12 to Williams, N. 6, set a new red zone trip that took the Mayas on the brink of scoring points. Then, came an amazing play of N. 84, Carlos Ramírez, through the middle of the field with the tight end powering his way into the end zone and getting the first TD of the game. The extra point was good for the Mayas to take. It was a 10 point lead over the Eagles.
It was time for the Eagles to answer with points, or began falling back in the scoreboard. Raúl Mateos, N. 18, was still in control of the offense, despite his passing accuracy problems and the ineffectiveness of the running game. Then, a big mistake on 3rd down saw the Eagles fumbling the ball recovered by Mayas on the 36 yard line into Eagles territory. In the next play the RB, Roberto Ríos, N. 80, exploded an avenue and reached quickly the end zone to give the Mayas total control of the game in the first minutes of the second half. The scoreboard read 17 points for Mayas and 0 for Eagles. It was a grim picture for the “Red Fury” ahead of the game.
On the next Eagles offensive series, Joaquín Juárez, N. 16, took over at QB in replacement of the banged-up Mateos. The difference in the passing game was felt rapidly. In his very first pass attempt, Juárez connected deep with Guillermo Villalobos, N. 84, with a beautiful toss to grant the Eagles their first trip into red zone. Then, Juárez showed great chemistry with Owens, N. 14, and they connected quickly for the TD in the left corner of the field. The Eagles answered fast with a couple of great passes and were finally in the scoreboard. However, the Eagles only managed 6 points, due to a blocked extra point attempt.
The Mayas did not give up on the running game and the Eagles found a hard time stopping the pounding of the “Blue Empire” running backs. Marco García also tested his passing abilities, and made big plays down the field, specially with Josue Martínez, N. 81, on a 40-yard pass. However, the blue offense became inoperant in the red zone, and set for another FG, increasing their points to 20; against 6 of the Eagles team. QB Joaquín Juárez, N. 16, knew that he needed to answer with a big play right away. And that was exactly what he did. On the first play of the next offensive series, he connected deep with Villalobos, N. 84, for an amazing 84-yard pass that closed the gap for the Eagles to just one possession.
The Mayas became inoperant on the next offensive series, and after a great contribution of the defense, the Eagles forced a 3 and out. Now the Eagles found themselves with the opportunity to tie the game, after they were down by 17 points. The punt return gave them a great field position crossing midfield into Mayas territory. The connection Juárez-Owens continued to pay dividends and the Mayas DB’s did not have an answer for him. Then, Juárez found Owens in the end zone, the latter giving us probably one of the most amazing grabs in the young LFA, and surely a candidate for catch of the season. A beauty of football that gave the Eagles the opportunity to catch Mayas on the scoreboard.
The Eagles risked it all and went for the 2pt conversion. Juárez took it himself and crossed the line, granting the Eagles a 1 point advantage after being down the whole match. That was the end of the 3rd quarter and the best was yet to come. The last episode of the showdown proved to be a frantic one, a great closing to a great game. The Eagles defense was playing at the high level required for this kind of battle. They were also stacking the box against the Mayas run. Rafael Rojas, N. 90, and Octavio Martínez, N. 98, were constantly pressuring Mayas QB Marco García, N. 12, and Martínez sacked him on the very first play of the 4th quarter.
That set up a Mayas punt that gave the Eagles everything they needed to take control of the last part of the game. The Eagles were steadily marching into Mayas territory with short passes, until mistakes stroke again. The “Red Fury” fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by Mayas. Just what they needed to regain confidence in themselves. The Eagles defense would not let things be that easy forcing García, N. 12, to move around the field and throw uncomfortably. A pair of ineffective run plays set 3rd and 6 for Mayas, and with constant pressure, García threw a bad pass that was deflected and landed in the hands of Eagles LB Javier Arroyo, N. 52. A strange turn of events in a key moment of the game.
Next up, Juárez connected again with Villalobos, N. 84, in a big play. The Mayas perimeter did not have an answer against the Eagles effective passing game. The offensive line gave Juárez enough time to damage with long passes. The Eagles seemed to be in no hurry to score more points, since they had the control of the game. They were close to the red zone with almost 5 minutes remaining in the clock. The Mayas defense stepped up and stuff a couple of Eagles runs; then, an incomplete pass set 4th down and 5 and the Eagles prepared for a FG that gave them enough advantage to force Mayas to go for the TD.
With 3:55 left on the clock, Mayas offense took the field – they knew that a FG was not enough for the victory. Finally, they started to move on from the running game, due to the pressure of the time clock, but, surprisingly, Omar Cojolum ran hard and an Eagles penalty gave new life to Mayas. García, N. 12, kept looking to score on the end zone, and tried to find Josue Martinez, N. 81, but without success. Arroyo made a new appearance in the middle of the field, catching a crucial pass that set the final trip for Mayas into red zone. The Eagles fought back the run in 1st and 2nd opportunities, but with the game on the line, Mayas rallied hard and García finally found Martínez wide open in the end zone. 46 seconds left and the “Blue Empire” had almost the game in the bag.
The return of the “Red Fury” was in charge of Araiza, N. 33, who advanced the ball to the 36 yard line. From there, Juárez took the reigns of the attack. An incomplete pass, and a couple of consecutive first downs, got the Eagles dreaming of FG range that would have tied the game. 17 seconds left, and a monstrous play from the defense got LB Edgar White, N. 50, and DL Diego de la Cruz, N. 92, in front of Juárez sacking him and setting 3rd and 15, this took the Eagles out of FG range. Finally, the next play was another big sack courtesy of Juan Gonzalez, N. 94, ending with all aspirations from the Eagles to tie the game.
As it was the tone of the whole game, the defense, particularly the Mayas’ one, stepped up big time when their team most needed them. Those couple of game-ending sacks were the ultimate effort to close a very difficult game for both teams. Now, they move on to their next compromises with many mistakes to fix; with hard work; and film studying to deliver better results hoping that they meet each other in a renewed battle on playoff grounds.