BROWNSVILLE — After trailing 3-0 at the break, Brownsville St. Joseph senior striker Diego Saldaña appeared to have netted the go-ahead goal with 11 minutes remaining to secure the comeback.

The goal was called back due to being offsides, however, leaving the Bloodhounds and Houston Second Baptist tied with time quickly running out.

Saldaña wouldn’t be denied next time around, putting the ball past the goalkeeper with four minutes remaining and adding another score during the 78th minute to complete the rally as the Bloodhounds defeated the Eagles 5-3 during a TAPPS DII area-round match Monday at J.T. Canales Stadium in Brownsville.

“When I missed out on that goal after the offsides, it really played with my head,” Saldaña said. “I couldn’t keep my head down though and not back down. Helping the team get to the next round made me happy. It’s not over for us.”

It was a tale of two halves for the Bloodhounds, who struggled to get on the board during the first half while going against the wind and entered the break trailing 3-0.

The final period proved much different, with St. Joseph needing only three minutes to find paydirt thanks to a goal by Saldaña.

The senior striker’s goal sparked the Bloodhounds’ rally, with Claudio Torres cutting the deficit to just one during the 52nd minute before tying the game with his second goal during the 65th minute.

Brownsville St. Joseph’s Claudio Torres (2) attempts to head the ball past the goalkeeper during a TAPPS DII area round contest Monday at J.T. Canales Stadium in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts | Brownsville Herald)

“That first goal by Diego was huge.,” Torres said. “We were mad at the things that happened in the first half. We knew that we were better. Everyone just focused up and we did what we had to do.”

The Bloodhounds kept their feet on the gas after tying the game, controlling possession for a majority of the second half while not allowing the Eagles any other chances to score.

St. Joseph’s relentless attack led to the go-ahead goal during the 76th minute, with Saldaña getting his shot deflected twice inside the box before putting his third shot attempt past the goalkeeper for the lead.

The senior captain put the finishing touches on the comeback with two minutes left, heading in a goal to secure the second-half hat trick and the Bloodhounds’ victory.

Brownsville St. Joseph’s Abraham Najera (4) steals the ball from a Houston Second Baptist player during a TAPPS DII area round contest Monday at J.T. Canales Stadium in Brownsville. Najera came up big defensively for the Bloodhounds during the second-half rally. (Miguel Roberts | Brownsville Herald)

“Tovar told us the other team scored three goals in the first 20 minutes so he knew we definitely could too,” Saldaña said. “That was our goal going into the second half. We just wanted to outscore them in the second half. If they could do it why not us? That is exactly what we did.”

The victory advances the Bloodhounds to the Elite Eight for a second straight year, and they’ll take on the winner between San Antonio Christian and Houston Lutheran South at a date, time and location to be determined.

San Antonio Christian was the lone team to hand St. Joseph a loss during district play this year.

“It’s a new mindset going into the playoffs,” Torres said. “Whether its San Antonio Christian or whoever, we’re 1-0 and they’re 1-0 too. It’s a new game.”

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