ODESSA, Texas -- Montwood coach Chuck Veliz said taking care of the ball against a good Abilene team would be essential if his team would have a chance to upset the No. 5-ranked team in Class 5A.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they were their own worst enemy all day long. Starting quarterback Angel Garcia threw three interceptions and backup quarterback Jacob Aguilar threw two as Montwood lost 34-15 to Abilene in a Class 5A bi-district football playoff game Saturday afternoon at Ratliff Stadium.
Montwood, who is ranked No. 1 in El Paso, finishes 8-3. Abilene (11-0) advances to meet Arlington Lamar in next week's area round. Abilene eliminated Montwood from the playoffs for the second straight season.
"We gave Abilene too many chances and we didn't take care of the opportunities we had," Veliz said. "It was a tough, physical game and I thought we competed as hard as we could. It was a great season for us."
Abilene scored 27 points off the five Rams turnovers. Montwood was still in the game in the fourth quarter, trailing 21-9, and on the move near midfield. But an Aguilar high pass to Ruben Solis went off his hands and was intercepted by Xavier Johnson, who returned the pick to the Montwood 33-yard line. Six plays later, quarterback Evin Abbe hit running back Marcell Porter with a 3-yard touchdown pass and the Eagles were up 28-9 with 5:25 left in the game. Porter later added a 7-yard touchdown run nearly three minutes later, after another Aguilar interception, to go up 34-9.
"Abilene is a disciplined defense," Aguilar said. "They were right where they had to be. We came out and played well to start the second half and had some momentum going."
The Rams trailed Abilene 21-3 at halftime due in large part to three turnovers, all by Garcia, who did not play in the second half. The three turnovers led to 14 Eagles points.
One of those turnovers came in the second quarter with Montwood inside the Abilene 10. Abilene eventually scored on its next possession for its 18-point halftime lead.
"I thought our defense really did a nice job," Abilene coach Steve Warren said. "We were opportunistic against a good offense. Montwood always plays us well and this game was no different. I have a lot of respect for the Rams program and how they play."
Aguilar, who finished with 133 yards passing, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Warren Redix early in the fourth quarter to cut the Abilene lead to 21-9. Redix finished with six catches for 59 yards.
Montwood trailed just 7-3 in the second quarter after a Mario Esparza 27-yard field goal. But Abilene scored the final 14 points of the first half.
Felix Chavez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6167. Follow him on Twitter@Fchavezeptimes.