HARLINGEN — The Harlingen South Hawks won their first playoff game since 2013 by taking down the McAllen Memorial Mustangs 10-7 in a Region IV-5A Division I bi-district defensive slugfest Friday at Boggus Stadium in Harlingen.
The Hawks earned their first postseason win under third-year head coach Israel Gonzalez and improved to 8-3 overall. Harlingen South will meet Victoria West in next week’s area round. McAllen Memorial’s season comes to a close at 7-4 overall.
“We’re just extremely grateful and give God the glory. It was a tremendous effort on all sides,” Harlingen South’s Gonzalez said. “A lot of credit goes to Coach (Moses) Patterson and the Memorial Mustangs. They played a hard-fought game. All three phases were on point today — offense did what they needed to do, defense made the stops when they needed to, and special teams were great.”
Defense, special teams and pounding the rock was the name of the game between the run-heavy Hawks and Mustangs. Both team’s punters — South’s Jeziel Ovalle and Memorial’s Johnny Sanchez — took turns pinning the opposing offense deep in their own territory with accurate kicks that took friendly bounces.
The Hawks leaned on the rushing attack of Alvin Edwards and David Sanchez offensively, while Memorial looked to Sebastian Aleman and JP Garza.
Backed up at their own 2-yard line late in the first half, South quarterback Austen Shroyer threw one up and receiver Jacob Cano came down with the pass for a 77-yard catch and run. Sanchez punched in a 6-yard touchdown five plays later to put the Hawks up 7-0 with 1:47 to play in the first half.
Memorial immediately answered with a kickoff return to midfield and a pair of big gains from Garza, which set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown from Kane Coy just before the first half buzzer.
Ovalle knocked through a 32-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter after an interception from South defensive back Joaquin Romero. South’s defensive front did a good job stopping the Memorial run during the second half, while the secondary was key in run support and shutting down pass attempts.
“All this week, we’ve just been studying and studying, watching their film, watching how they play, and I feel like our linebackers plugged the holes really great, our safeties came down whenever there was a heavy run set, and we just played a hell of a game,” defensive lineman Reno Vincent Villanueva Jr. said.
The Mustangs put one final drive together with time winding down in the fourth, but a 47-yard field goal attempt to tie the game came up short as time expired, securing the win for South.
South shifts its focus to next week’s area round against Victoria West (5-6). West, the No. 4 seed from District 14-5A DI, defeated San Antonio Southside 59-22 to set up a second round matchup against the Hawks. Game details are to be determined.
“Every program sets goals. We won two district championships in a row and unfortunately we bowed out in the first round those two years,” Gonzalez said. “This year, we finished second, didn’t get the district championship, but our goal was to win and move on in the playoffs, and we’ve been able to do that, so we’re extremely excited and I’m excited for those young men.”