HARLINGEN — Bird Bowl XXIV lived up to the hype on Friday.
The jam-packed Boggus Stadium crowd, which was evenly split down the middle between Cardinal Red and Hawk Green, witnessed quite the dozy.
The contest featured everything a football fan could want: Hard hits, back-and-forth action and down-to-the-wire drama.
However, when it was all said and done, the Bird Bowl Champions Trophy remained right where it has been for the past eight years: With the Harlingen Cardinals.
Despite an exceptional effort by the Hawks, who were looking to win their first game against the Cards since 2007, the Red Birds used a strong second half to eventually pull away and hold on for a thrilling 23-16 win.
The Cards’ victory snapped a two-game losing skid to put them at 2-2 overall and, more importantly, at 1-0 in District 32-6A play.
Meanwhile, the loss was the Hawks’ first of the season as they fell to 3-1 and 0-1 in conference play.
Afterward, Cardinals head coach Manny Gomez was pleased with his team’s effort but was determined to fix some of the problems that plagued his squad, including costly penalties.
“We really responded in the second half, but we put ourselves in holes with selfish acts and that’s something that is going to get fixed,” Gomez said. Penalties killed a lot of our drives and some of them were personal fouls, and that’s just selfishness.
“But other than that, this was a great night for football and this was one of those games that I wish I was in the stands to watch.”
The Cards opened the contest by jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter after a 40-yard TD run by star running back Leo Tienda and a 34-yard field goal by Giovanni Guillen. Tienda finished the night with 52 yards on 19 carries.
But the Hawks fought back, cutting the lead to 9-7 after a nice 24-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Villarreal to Samuel De La Rosa.
The Hawks’ defense then stepped up with three interceptions that kept the Cards’ offense in check for the rest of the first half.
Meanwhile, South’s offense continued to roll as Gilbert Montemayor scored on a 6-yard run with 49.6 seconds to go in the first half to put the Hawks up 13-9.
However, the Cards tacked on another field goal with no time left on the clock to cut the lead down to 13-12 heading into the half.
The Cards received the ball to open the second half and quickly took back the lead after Nathan Ramirez took a pass from quarterback Jesse Castro 47 yards into the end zone. After a successful two-point conversion, the Cards were up 20-13.
From there, Harlingen’s defense went to work shutting the Hawks down as a 22-yard field goal from Sean Muniz was all the Hawks could muster in the second half.
Still, the game remained close until another field goal by Guillen with 1:19 left in the game pretty much iced things as the Cards went up 23-16.
The Hawks did try to make it interesting as they got a couple of first downs on their ensuing drive to pump up the crowd. However, it was too little too late.
Stats provided by Matthew Cavazos, KHGN statistician, 10th grade Harlingen South