PHARR — The PSJA Bears’ offense overcame five turnovers and leaned on junior quarterback Trey Guajardo for a 31-24 win over the Harlingen South Hawks on Thursday in the Valley Morning Star’s Game of the Week.
Johnathan Figueroa tied the game on a 45-yard field goal with 7:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and on the next drive Christian Rivera scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:34 left in the game.
The Hawks had a final shot with 1:30 left, but the Bears’ defense denied any late-game magic sealing a the seven-point win.
“We settled down in the second half and I told them to play like they know how to play,” said Hawks coach Brian Ricci. “They needed to quit thinking and go out and play, and they did. They put a great effort in the second half and they played well.”
The Hawks trailed 21-10 at the half but stormed back to take a late lead. On 4th and 3 from the 1-yard line, Jorge Alicea’s third score of the night put the Hawks ahead 24-21 with 9:43 left in the game.
South’s Brandon Bennett made the play that turned the momentum in the third quarter as he sacked Guajardo, forcing the Bears to punt. Harlingen South capitalized on the stop and scored on an Alicea touchdown run that cut the lead 21-16.
PSJA showcased just how explosive its offense can be. On the Bears’ opening drive, Guajardo was flushed out of the pocket but showed poise and kept his eyes downfield and hit Marc Guajardo on a 63-yard pass for the score. On the ensuing kickoff, Harlingen South failed to recover the kickoff giving the Bears an extra possession.
South’s defense held its own and PSJA’s 46-yard field goal was wide left. PSJA looked for the deep ball for most of the first half. Harlingen South’s defense forced four turnovers led by sophomore cornerback Enrique Alvarado, who picked off two passes.
Bennett and Sky Tatum also forced a fumble recovered by Christian Lerma late in the second quarter. Despite forcing turnovers, Harlingen South managed to turn only one of them into points.
“Our defensive front played a heck of a game up front. I knew they were a good group and they got us turnovers,” said Ricci. “Offensively we couldn’t convert off those turnovers and that’s what hurts. Our defense put us in a good position to have the lead and we just couldn’t take advantage of it.”
In the final minute of the first quarter Dylan Carreon hit Alicea on a swing pass for a 69-yard touchdown tying the game at 7. In the second quarter Jose Lerma gave the Hawks a 10-7 lead with 10:13 remaining in the first half.
Midway through the second quarter, PSJA scored 14 unanswered points in the final four minutes. Guajardo hit Nathan Sanchez for a 32-yard score. In the final minute, the Bears’ defense helped flip the field and take over deep in Hawks territory. The drive was capped off by a 1-yard Guajardo touchdown run giving the Bears a 21-10 lead at the break.
The Hawks (1-1) will now shift their focus to their home opener against Edinburg North (0-1) next Thursday. Meanwhile PSJA (2-0) will have a date with district rival PSJA Southwest (0-1).