Vargas, East offense come alive in Oil Bowl’s second half

Zach Duncan
Wichita Falls Times Record News
Published June 16, 2018

There was a time in Saturday’s 81st annual Oil Bowl where the East offense was out of sorts.

Excluding Zack West’s spectacular 48-yard touchdown run, Marc Bindel’s squad couldn’t find the end zone in the first half at Memorial Stadium.

Jorge Vargas was uncharacteristically overthrowing receivers and a promising drive ended with a missed field goal. But once Vargas and the East clicked in the second half, it was lights out for the West.

Vargas threw for 205 yards and three second-half touchdowns as the East scored the game’s final 28 points in an emphatic 35-6 victory.

“When you’re playing with new receivers, it’s hard to get a rhythm. I’m glad I got into a rhythm second half,” Vargas said. “It’s all about spreading around the ball. I was trying to get as many people as many touches as I could.”

The Rider grad certainly had some help, starting with his former teammate Jake Edgemon, who had himself a successful but strange night. The two hooked up five times for 120 yards and a 29-yard touchdown on fourth and long that put the East ahead 21-6 with 11:45 remaining.

“I figured it being an all-star game, I could do a little bit of showboating and not get in trouble,” said  Edgemon, who re-entered the game after taking a break for two unsportsmanlike penalties, which is an ejection during the regular season. “At first I was scared because I got a few penalties and was dropping stuff, stupid mistakes. My teammates came to me, calmed me down and let me focus and get back into my element.”

Iowa Park’s Billy Pearson tries to find an opening in the line of scimmage Saturday, June 16, 2018, in the Oil Bowl at Memorial Stadium.  Lauren Roberts/Times Record News

The East had a built-in advantage having Bindel and Vargas running the Raiders’ offense this week, which is crucial with only three days to prepare. Vargas’ 51-yard strike to Edgemon early in the third quarter seemed to energize the offense, even if the drive didn’t end with any points.

Another obvious advantage to the more than 3,000 fans in attendance was the East’s dominance up front as it recorded nine sacks and get all the tough yards it needed to sustain drives in the second half.

“Near the end of the second quarter, you could tell our o-line was starting to get a push,” Bindel said. “At halftime, we said we’ve got them. Our o-line is pretty big and really our o-line and d-line dominated the game.”

In his final game at Memorial, Vargas threw for 173 of his yards in the second half and finished with 63 rushing yards, often gaining a chunks on the ground when pressured. He hit Gainesville’s Josh Kemp on a bubble screen for a 14-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and found Tyler Edington in the end zone on an 11-yard lob with 6:39 to play.

It was a special night for all three Midwestern State signees as Edgemon showed his big-play potential and West rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown in his final game on the offensive side of the ball. Bindel afterward said Midwestern State is getting a steal in the Henrietta graduate.

Meanwhile, Hirschi grad Gerrick McKinney produced the only points for the West, returning a punt 67 yards down the home sideline a minute into the second half.

McKinney also picked off Vargas in the end zone on a fourth-down heave and had a fun time verbally and physically jousting with Edgemon, two future Mustangs who are no stranger to competitive fire.

“It was good playing against Gerrick, just another taste of what we’re going do in practice,” Edgemon said. “He’s going to make me better and I’m going to make him better.”

It didn’t necessarily show on the scoreboard in a first half that lacked cohesiveness, but there was no doubt the East was better once the final buzzer sounded.