HARLINGEN — In front of a packed and rowdy home crowd donned in red and black, the Valley’s top-ranked Harlingen Cardinals were looking to get their second win of the season as they hosted the Laredo United South Panthers on Friday at Boggus Stadium.
Unfortunately the Red Birds caught a bad case of turnoveritis and the Panthers (1-1) walked away with a 30-13 win.
The Cardinals (1-1) committed five turnovers on the evening, including three in the third quarter that led to 13 points by the Panthers.
With the game tied at 7 after a very physical first half, United South head coach Sergio Salinas rolled the dice to start the second half and came up the big winner as his team caught the Cards off guard with an onside kick that the Panthers recovered on the Cards 50.
The Panthers converted that miscue into a 43-yard field goal by Johan Portales to put the visiting team up 10-7.
“We took the risk and fortunately it paid off,” Salinas said. “We figured we had to do something to get the ball so we took our chances.”
Things only got worse for the Cards as on their next three possessions they turned the ball over and the Panthers took advantage.
After the Cards’ first turnover, the Panthers managed to score another field goal to push their lead to 13-7. Then after the Cards coughed up the ball on South’s 15 two possessions later, Panthers running back Jesus Posada took the ball up the middle for a 92-yard TD that put United South up 23-7 and silenced the home crowd. Posada finished the game with 282 yards on 28 carries.
The Cardinals, to their credit, continued to fight and with 5:20 left in the game scored on a 1-yard TD plunge by quarterback Jesse Castro to cut the lead to 23-13 after a failed 2-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Cards turned the tables on the Panthers and recovered an onside kick of their own to get the ball back at midfield.
The Cardinals drove the ball all the way down to the Panthers 10 and looked like they were going to score. However, a Castro pass was intercepted in the end zone by South’s Marck Reyna to end the drive and kill the Cards’ momentum.
Despite the loss, Cards head coach Manny Gomez remained upbeat and optimistic.
“Of course the loss has some bite to it, but these guys aren’t hanging their heads,” Gomez said. “We made a lot of mistakes and they (United South) are a good team, but that’s what we wanted to face in the non-district season.
“It is what it is but believe me, we’re going to bounce back.”