HARLINGEN — The Weslaco Panthers overcame a 17-7 deficit at halftime and rallied to their second consecutive win, 28-25 Friday night against Harlingen South.
The Panthers’ comeback was led by the arms of Marco Leal and Elijah Banda as they both threw for touchdowns in the second half.
“I like the way our kids responded, they never gave up and kept fighting,” said Hawks coach Brian Ricci. “The kids continue to get better each week and they continue to work hard. That’s all I know how to do is to keep getting better and the kids do the same.”
Weslaco scored on its opening drive of the second half on a 18-yard touchdown from Leal to Devin Dena that trimmed the lead to 17-14 early in the third quarter. The scoring drive shifted momentum in favor of the Panthers and on the next drive they recovered a muffed punt and took over at the Hawks 28-yard line.
The Panthers capitalized on the turnover with a Banda touchdown run giving the Panthers their first lead since the first quarter at 21-17.
Weslaco’s defense held the Hawks scoreless until the final minutes. The offense managed to outscore South 21-8 in the second half.
Quiroz checks in solid outing, exits with injury: With Hawks feature back Jorge Alicea making a return to the lineup after missing the last few weeks with an ankle injury, it had been junior running back Emilio Quiroz who carried the workload.
On Friday, the Hawks’ offense looked revived with big plays, no turnovers and crisp running. Quarterback David Torres continued to find his form under center and hit Jaime Belmontes on a 43-yard score and leaned on Quiroz out of the backfield.
The momentum changed when Weslaco scored on its opening drive of the second half and South lost Quiroz to an injury in the third quarter. He finished with 21 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Alicea also exited the game with an injury, leaving South with one healthy running back.
“He runs hard and he is the heart of this team,” Ricci said of Quiroz. “It was tough to lose him and lose Jorge. We were down to one running back, but I like the way the kids responded and came right back and scored late in the game.”
Hawks can’t overcome miscues, missed opportunities: The Hawks struggled on special teams and it eventually proved costly. South saw a 14-point swing off of special teams. In the first quarter the ball sailed over the punter’s head and Weslaco recovered, resulting in a touchdown that gave the Panthers an early 7-3 lead. The second was a muffed punt in the third quarter. Weslaco later scored and took a 21-17 lead.
Late in the fourth, Torres connected with Brady Bennett for an 18-yard touchdown along with a two point conversion as the Hawks pulled within three points at 28-25.
But Weslaco managed to squeeze the final 3:40 off the clock with a fourth-and-2 run that saw the Panthers pick up a first down by the nose of the football.
South (1-7, 0-5) will now shift its focus to Weslaco East while Weslaco (3-4, 2-3) will have a date with San Benito.