HARLINGEN — On Harlingen High’s opening drive, the Cardinals were pinned at their own 1-yard line.
That didn’t seem to bother them much, as senior quarterback Jaime Galvan hit his brother, Justin Galvan, on 34- and 57-yard pass plays to help set up a touchdown by senior running back Rayden Berry.
The early score helped set the tone for the night. Despite a strong second half from Harlingen South, Harlingen High won its 12th straight Bird Bowl 38-28 and leads the series 23-4.
The win also gives the Cardinals at least a share of the District 32-6A title with one game left on the schedule.
Harlingen High is now 4-0 in district play and will meet Brownsville Rivera next Friday. A win for the Cardinals would seal an outright district title.
“At the start of the season, this is something we have prepared for. We wanted to be a district champion,” Cards coach Manny Gomez said. “Along the way, we knew we had two rivalry games to be labeled a champion. Too many times people dream about being a champion and don’t want to put in the work, but these kids, that is what they have done. They have put in the work.”
Berry was named the game’s most valuable player by the Great American Rivalry Series. Berry scored three rushing touchdowns in the win.
“It feels good, this was a great team win, but we still have work to do,” Berry said. “I continued to run and kept working. I had been in a little slump but I continued to work, and not every game is going to be perfect. Winning the MVP is a great accomplishment, but I give all the credit to my offensive line. They are the ones blocking for me.”
The Hawks trailed 24-7 at the half but put together a much cleaner second half, stringing together 21 points from running back Israel Vasquez. The Hawks cut the lead to 10 during the final minutes.
South’s first touchdown came on a 68-yard pass from David Torres to Alex Esparza with 5:02 left in the first half.
“They made some good plays. They have some athletes,” South coach Brian Ricci said. “We had some missed tackles and they got some big plays, and we fell behind early. I’m proud of the kids for clawing back and competing in the second half.”
Heading into the final week of the regular season, the case is simple for the Hawks. A win against Hanna sends the Hawks to the playoffs, but a loss ends their season.
“The winner goes to the playoffs and the loser packs their stuff up,” Ricci said. “We will fix some things that we didn’t do right tonight, but, yes, we are going to dive right into Hanna this weekend, and the kids know what is at stake.”
The Cardinals’ offense was fueled by the Galvan brothers, who hooked up for a 5-yard touchdown pass that gave the team a 17-0 lead. Berry followed with a score that made it 24-7 at the half.
During the third quarter, the big plays came. Berry sprinted for a 43-yard TD run, but the biggest play came on a trick play. Jaime Galvan hit Ryan Elizondo on a swing pass, and Elizondo hit a wide-open Hector Perez for a 48-yard score.
“We knew we had a great game plan offensively, and we got put in a hole early,” Gomez said. “But we got a little stirred up, but we weren’t shaken and we were able to do our thing. Our offense is second to none, they are playing lights out right now. And defensively we are still growing up but it was a collective effort from everyone, and it is a great time to be in Cardinal Land.”