CORPUS CHRISTI — After a slow start during Tuesday’s regional quarterfinal against Brownsville Jubilee, Progreso head coach Damian Magallan knew his team couldn’t afford a similar start against La Vernia.

The message to his players heading into the contest was simple — strike early.

The Red Ants did just that, scoring a pair of first-half goals and never looking back en route to a 4-2 win over the Bears during a Region IV-4A semifinal at Cabaniss Soccer Field in Corpus Christi.

The victory sends Progreso to the Region IV-4A final for the first time since 2019. They’ll take on the winner between Hidalgo and Boerne at noon today at the Cabaniss Soccer Field.

“My players gave it their all,” Magallan said. “We knew why we came here. We worked all season to get here. Thank God we were able to play our game and we get win. Now we move forward and prepare for the final.”

It didn’t take long for the Red Ants to find paydirt Friday, with senior captain Joshua Perez corralling a long pass all alone and beating the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 during the 16th minute.

Progreso’s Joshua Perez (14) fires a shot during a Region IV-4A semifinal match against La Vernia on Friday at the Cabaniss Soccer Field in Corpus Christi. (Victor Dominguez | Special to RGVSports)

Freshman Juan Treviño added to Progreso’s lead just six minutes later, finding a wide open net off an assist from Hicker Segura to make it 2-0 at the break.

Going against the wind after switching sides, La Vernia turned into the aggressor during the second half, cutting the deficit to one on a goal by Cameron Martinez.

A goal by Diego Macias just five minutes later extended the Red Ants’ advantage back to two, leading 3-1 with just less than 30 minutes remaining.

Things remained stagnant for roughly 20 minutes. Then chaos ensued.

After a goal by La Vernia’s Cole Bowman cut the Red Ants’ lead back down to one, both teams turned up the physicality.

La Vernia’s Brayden Rodriguez (21) battles for possession with Progreso’s Hicker Segura (10) during a Region IV-4A semifinal match Friday at Cabaniss Soccer Field in Corpus Christi. (Victor Dominguez | Special to RGVSports)

The increased physicality reached a boiling point with just more than six minutes remaining, with a bench-clearing brawl breaking out after a physical exchange between a La Vernia and Progreso player.

The fight between the teams resulted in six red cards being handed out, three for each team, including Progreso’s Haciel Macias, Joshua Perez and Kevin Garcia. All three will be forced to sit out from today’s championship game.

“It implicates a lot because they’re three of our starters,” Magallan said. “That’s the game though. I always tell them to have hot feet and cool minds. Unfortunately us as coaches can’t stop the problems on the field. Luckily we were able to still get the win and now we’re ready for the final.”

The teams played the remainder of the game with just eight players each, with Progreso adding one more score on a goal by Diego Macias during that span to secure the 4-2 win.

The short-handed Red Ants will look to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2018 with a win today.

“We worked for this. We’ve won 24 straight games, but I tell the guys we need to keep working,” Magallan said. “Unfortunately an error like today can end these high aspirations we have, but we’re going to keep going forward and fighting. We have to adjust after losing those three guys. We’re going to try to do things a little better and see how they come out tomorrow. We’re still going in with that winning attitude though. We’re going to work hard for tomorrow.

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