HARLINGEN — It was literally the tale of two halves for the Harlingen South Hawks against the Los Fresnos Falcons on Friday at Boggus Stadium.
After a first half marred by drive-stopping penalties, costly miscues and downright messy play, the Hawks erased a 14-0 halftime deficit by scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to win the contest 21-14.
With the victory, the Hawks improved to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in District 32-6A play.
“The defense was playing good in the first half so I told the defense to keep playing like they were and the offense just had to wake up,” said a happy looking Hawks head coach Brian Ricci after the game.
“In the first half we didn’t get lined up right, had penalties and were just sloppy. I told them to relax and clean things up and they’ll be all right. They did and we were.”
As for the Falcons, the loss marked their third in a row as they are now 2-3 overall and 0-2 in league play.
However, early on it appeared as if the visiting Falcons were going to walk away victorious as they rushed out to a quick 14-0 lead, much to the delight of their numerous fans in attendance.
After a six-play opening drive that went nowhere, the Falcons punted and got the ball back at the South 1-yard line after the Hawks mishandled the ball. Sebastian Gonzalez quickly punched the ball into the end zone and the Falcons were up 7-0 with 8:36 left in the first quarter.
After the Hawks failed to do much on their opening drive, the Falcons got the ball back and scored again. Running back John Salazar scored on a nifty 68-yard run to put the Falcons in command 14-0.
The score remained a two-touchdown game heading into the half as both teams’ offenses stalled in the second quarter. The Falcons failed twice to extend their lead as they missed on two field-goal attempts in the second quarter.
Those missed opportunities were huge because in the second half the Hawks came out a completely different team.
The Hawks received the ball to start the third quarter and immediately drove the ball 67-yards, ending the 12-play drive on an 11-yard TD run by Adrian Torres. After the Sean Muniz extra point, the Hawks trailed just 14-7 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
The Hawks’ reborn offense helped fuel the defense as the unit forced a three-and-out on the Falcons ensuing drive.
With 4:41 left in the third, the Hawks once again hit the ground running and six-plays later knotted the contest up at 14-14 after a 40-yard TD run by Matthew Zavala.
After the Hawks’ defense forced another three-and-out, the offense then came out and went on a masterful time-consuming, 17-play drive that finally ended when quarterback Brandon Villarreal scored on a 7-yard keeper to put South up 21-14 with just 5:25 left in the game.
The Falcons nearly tied the game up late, but a 41-yard TD run by quarterback Charles Chapa was called back on a holding penalty and then the Falcons turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth-and-three.
Despite a complete lack of offense in the second half, the Falcons still had a chance to at least tie the game with less than two minutes remaining. However on a key fourth-and-seven, South’s Jose Vasquez sacked Falcons QB Chapa to end their drive and seal the Hawks’ win.
“I’m so pound of these guys for sticking in there and not dropping their heads,” Coach Ricci said. “Anytime you can win a district game it gets you closer to your goal of making the playoffs so this was huge tonight. But next week’s game is just as big as this game and that’s the way it’s going to be all season.”
The Hawks are at Brownsville Hanna next Friday while Los Fresnos is at Weslaco East.
NOTE: Falcons star QB Mark Mata did not play for unspecified reasons on Friday.