By CLAIRE CRUZ, Special to the Star
Harlingen South wanted to set a good tone for the season in its first game against Edinburg High on Friday night.
That mission was accomplished in dominating fashion with a 24-0 win that was all Hawks, all the time.
“Our kids were excited, they played well,” South coach Brian Ricci said. “They looked like they were having fun, and if that’s the case, you’re usually going to be successful.”
On the third play of the opening drive, Edinburg High running back AJ Trevino fumbled and South recovered to set its offense up just 25 yards away from the end zone. Hawks running back Orlando Muniz capitalized on the error with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Short fields were the norm for the Hawks as the Bobcats’ offense struggled to find any rhythm. Running backs Shandon Woodard and Trevino managed to break away for a few big rushes, but Edinburg High failed to string together positive plays and was weighed down by penalties throughout the contest.
Bobcats coach JJ Leija gave two young quarterbacks their first taste of the Friday night lights, with sophomore Rolando Abrego playing the first half and junior Kaleb Guajardo taking the reins in the second.
“We have a lot of new faces on this team, and that’s not an excuse, it all comes down to discipline,” Leija said. “I’m happy with some things we saw tonight. I liked the way our defense attacked … I was impressed with AJ Trevino … but we still have a lot of work to do.”
South was spreading the ball around as it tries to sort out a quality group of running backs. Muniz, Israel Vasquez, Marcos Gonzales and Javier Garcia were among the busiest rushers. Vasquez found the end zone on a 1-yard run late in the fourth quarter to cap off the win.
But the Hawks’ defense was arguably the most impressive part of the night.
The big defensive line applied constant pressure to the Edinburg High quarterbacks and swarmed running backs behind the line of scrimmage for an array of negative yardage plays.
Senior Israel Balboa added an interception to the mix, and the Hawks forced and recovered three fumbles — including one on a sack by Joshua Cantu that Ethan Gonzalez turned into a touchdown.
South had its share of early season miscues as well, but the good far outweighed the bad.
“Our defense is playing confident, and that’s exciting for our team,” Ricci said. “Offense has some penalties we need to clean up but it’s fixable stuff, and I’m proud of them and how they kept their composure and played with energy.”