Lions defeat Pirates to clinch district title, stay unbeaten

LA FERIA — The La Feria Lions secured their third straight District 16-4A DI championship in as many years, defeating Hidalgo 28-12 on Friday night to wrap up an undefeated regular season.

With the victory, La Feria head coach Oscar Salinas picked up his third season of 10 wins or more at the helm of the Lions (10-0, 4-0 16-4A Division I) since becoming the program’s head coach in 2011.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling to finish at home with a district championship,” Salinas said. “There’s no better way. We have such great fans, so to be able to celebrate with them is just a fantastic feeling. We did a fantastic job tonight.”

Despite their defeat, the Pirates (7-2, 2-1 16-4A Division I) proved to be one of La Feria’s most daunting regular-season foes, with a defense that kept the Lions in check for much of the first half. However, the La Feria defense was even more intimidating, fronted by consistent pressure and jarring hits by defensive tackle Andrew Rodriguez and defensive end Guillermo Vargas.

After a scoreless first quarter that featured a turnover forced by safety Jayden Torres and a goal-line stand by the Hidalgo defense, La Feria quarterback Dorian Hernandez got the home team on the board with a 20-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Dereck Perez. Perez struck again to double the Lions’ lead after a 3-yard rushing touchdown with 8:30 to play in the third quarter.

Hidalgo responded at the 10:07 mark of the fourth quarter when quarterback Angel Sanchez connected with Gus Sanchez for a 12-yard touchdown that brought the Pirates’ deficit to eight points following a missed extra point.

Perez appeared to put the game away with a 47-yard gain and a 19-yard touchdown run on the following play with 8:06 remaining in the fourth quarter to give La Feria a 21-6 edge.

But Hidalgo running back Zach Carrera, the focal point of the Pirates’ offense, gave the visitors a sudden jolt of momentum with a 75-yard touchdown run to bring Hidalgo back within single digits of La Feria at 21-12 with 6:22 to play.

La Feria stamped out the Hidalgo comeback bid for good when Dorian Hernandez fired a dart to a double-covered Caleb Flores for a leaping 35-yard touchdown grab with 2:05 to play.

For good measure, cornerback Evan Avila intercepted a desperate pass attempt with 10 seconds to go to allow the Lions to kneel out the clock, and the celebration ensued.

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.