HARLINGEN — The psychological baggage of last year’s losing season is officially off the Harlingen Cardinals shoulders.
After winning just one game last season, the Cardinals opened a new chapter on Friday by defeating crosstown rivals Harlingen South 2-1 in their District 32-6A opener.
After the clock struck zero, emotions around the Cardinal sideline could not be contained.
“These guys have overcome a lot to be here tonight,” said first-year Harlingen High head coach Johnny Guillen. “Over the last four years the program has won just one or two district games, and to them this is big because last year the kids lost 7-0 to South.
“Our main goal this offseason was to be prepared, not just for this game but prepare for district since I know next week is going to be another tough one against Rivera. But I think the entire district is going to be tough and there’s no time to waste, we just have to hit it hard every single day.”
After an even first half where both teams saw shots go wide, Harlingen broke the deadlock after Angel Flores scored the first goal of the game 10 minutes into the second half.
However, the celebration was short-lived after Harlingen South’s Jose Lerma was brought down for a penalty inside the box just eight minutes later. Lerma calmly slipped his attempt past Harlingen goalkeeper Rick De Leon, who made a diving attempt, to even the score at 1-1.
But the Cardinals would not be denied. Just minutes later Jose Garcia connected with Braulio Olvera to break the deadlock once again and give the Cardinals their first district win of the season.
For South, the loss was a growing experience that the Hawks will take to the next game.
“My guys got there first game out of the way and now they know what it’s about,” said Harlingen South head coach Julian Robles. “Hats off to Harlingen, they played a great game and they have a heck of a team, and we knew that coming in. We took the game to them and I’m very proud of my boys because they showed a lot of maturity today, and a lot of composure and now were just going to keep going.
“I think we have a long way to go to be where we want to be, but we are going to get a lot better than this. However, if this is our starting point then I’m happy about it.”