By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
No tricks, treats, pumpkins, spooky ghosts or the like.
But early on Friday night, something just didn’t seem right with the San Benito Greyhounds. And because of it, Harlingen South earned a huge win.
Plagued by four turnovers, costly penalties and mental errors, San Benito allowed the pesky Hawks to hang around and ultimately dropped a 21-20 decision at Boggus Stadium to the Green Birds, putting a possible celebration of a district championship for the ’Hounds on ice for at least another week.
The upset by South creates an interesting state of affairs in District 32-6A. Harlingen and Los Fresnos both sit at 4-2 in district, a game back of 5-1 San Benito. However, the ’Hounds own head-to-head tiebreakers over both, meaning the good news for San Benito is it can still claim an outright district title with a win at home next week over Brownsville Rivera in the regular season finale.
But for now, none of that matters as the ’Hounds (6-3 overall, 5-1 district) will have to regroup and win against a feisty Rivera team in Week 11 as opposed to enjoying a light week before the playoffs.
“I just didn’t have my team ready to play,” San Benito head coach Dan Gomez said steadfast on Friday. “Now we’re just gonna get back to work.”
The start of the game was almost like any other for San Benito. It took six plays for the ’Hounds to drive 72 yards to paydirt as Cristian Sierra eased in from six yards out. A two-point conversion run failed.
On South’s first possession, a handoff went awry and the ’Hounds’ Juan Salas alertly scooped up the fumble and ran it back 27 yards for a touchdown. Another failed conversion left the score 12-0 at the 9:16 mark of the first quarter.
But then things went cold.
San Benito punted and fumbled while South (3-6, 2-4) got a 29-yard touchdown burst from the ultra-athletic James Carpio in between.
After that the ’Hounds notched their final score of the night, an 8-yard pass from Sierra to Omar Garcia. Sierra ran in the two-pointer for a 20-7 edge with 6:42 left before half.
Then things got downright icy.
Sierra was intercepted but the Greyhound defense, stingy for the most part, forced a punt. But during the kick the Hawks were able to strip Victor Gaitan of the ball and run in a 15-yard fumble return to make it 20-14 with a minute left before intermission.
The shell-shocked ’Hounds never fully recovered as they did not score after halftime. Their second half possessions went punt, interception, punt, punt. Despite that, the Greyhound defense kept them in the ballgame, in the third quarter forcing South to turn it over via interception (by Juan Gonzalez), a punt and a turnover on downs (after a big stand by Julio Pecina on fourth down).
But South then got rolling marching 10 plays and accepting a couple of penalties along the way when Darren Perez (96 yards rushing) ran free up the seam on a 29-yard touchdown with under seven minutes left in the game. The all-important PAT gave the Hawks the lead.
San Benito scrambled, but was forced to punt it back to South with three minutes left. The Green Birds picked up a couple of vital first downs and the ’Hounds didn’t get it back until just 10 ticks remained.
For the ’Hounds, Sierra had 192 yards passing to go with 52 rushing, recording a passing TD and rushing TD. Garcia had 76 total yards (40 rushing) while Javier Ortiz (4 catches, 66 yards) and R.J. Atkinson (5-51) were the leading pass-catchers.