Hawks’ defense making strides

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HARLINGEN — After making the postseason in 2018 for the first time since the 2013 season, Harlingen South is looking to get back to the playoffs for a second straight season under fourth-year coach Brian Ricci.

The last time the Hawks reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons was during the 2012-2013 seasons under former coach Lanny Wilson.

Harlingen South’s calling card this year will be its speed. The Hawks return five starters from last year’s defense. Leading the secondary will be junior safety David Cortez, along with senior corner Kike Alvarado.

Cortez and Alvarado provide range and a physical presence. The Hawks’ anchor in the middle will be senior linebacker Ethan Gonzalez. With the Hawks in their second year of a new defensive scheme, Ricci sees the improvement on the field.

“We had an intersquad (workout) this past week and we were impressed with our defense,” Ricci said. “This is our second year with a new system and the kids look a lot more familiar with it. They are flying around faster out there on the field, and we are excited about that.”

South went 4-7 overall and went 2-3 in District 32-6A. The two wins was enough to get the Hawks into the postseason.

“We are looking good on defense,” Gonzalez said. “We have a lot of sophomores on defense, and they are looking good right now. As veterans, David helps out with the secondary, those are his guys, but everything is coming together. All around, our defense should be good. We have plenty of guys returning.”

The Hawks kick off their season Aug. 30 at home against Edinburg High. Three of the five non-district opponents South will face made the playoffs in 2018.

The 2019 Hawks squad will be a senior- and sophomore-heavy group. Ricci is expecting the seniors to fill in and lead the way for the sophomore group this fall.

“It is exciting, and the kids got a taste of the playoffs last year,” Ricci said. “They now know what it takes and what it’s about. That is what they worked on this offseason, and they don’t just want to make the playoffs, they want to make some noise, and everyone is bought in. We have a good nucleus, and what people will see is teamwork. There isn’t too many individuals out there, we are talking about a team.”