GEORGETOWN — Hidalgo’s Rey Cantu is no stranger to finding the back of the net. The senior forward led the Valley in scoring during district play this season, netting 40 goals in 13 district games.

No goal, however, has been as big as his goal during Wednesday’s Class 4A state semifinal.

With 47 seconds remaining, Hidalgo’s Anthony Nava delivered a bomb from more than 40 yards out. The shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s hands and then the crossbar before Cantu sped in and tapped in the ball with his shoulder for the go-ahead goal as the Pirates defeated the San Elizario Eagles 1-0 at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.

The victory sends the Pirates to the state championship game for the first time since they won the title in 2009. They’ll take on the Palestine Wildcats at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.

“It is like a moment you see in the movies,” Hidalgo head coach Esteban Alegria said. “This is all for the kids. The victory is all about them. It is a big win for us. Not just for us, though, but for the Valley. We still have one more game, though. We’re going for another star, and Sharyland is, too. I wish them the best of luck, too. For our guys, we have to stay humble and keep focused on one more.”

Shots were difficult to come by during the first half, with the two teams taking just two each during the opening period.

The second half proved a different story, with the two teams playing more aggressively in search of the go-ahead score.

Hidalgo’s defense held strong behind a dominant performance from defenders Anthony Nava and Gabriel Ordonez, eliminating almost any chance of a San Elizario goal before it developed.

When the Eagles did have a chance to shoot, Hidalgo goalkeeper Sergio Castaneda did what he’s done all season, coming up with three saves to secure the clean sheet.

“As a defense, we knew we had to keep waiting and waiting, and trust our midfielder and forwards,” Nava said. “It happened there at the end. We knew it was going to happen. We manifested this before the season started. We’ve been working on this since the summer.”

While the defense did its part, senior captains Cantu and Rosales continued to apply the offensive pressure, with the Pirates’ duo combining for nine of the team’s 10 shot attempts.

Cantu’s final attempt proved to be the difference, connecting on his sixth try for the game-winner to send the Pirates to the Class 4A state title game.

The 2023 UIL state tournament continues today, with Sharyland High set to take on El Paso Bel Air in the Class 5A state semifinals at 5 p.m. at Birkelbach Field.

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