McALLEN — They knew that if they could duplicate the second half effort from Game One, and avoid the first half effort, the Bobcats would be OK against McHigh.
Facing Harlingen South to start off the Pat Leal Tournament at De Leon Middle School Friday, EHS had been sloppy on defense, passed seldom on offense, and limped to the break down 2-0 to the Hawks.
“We have to tighten up the defense, we’re not gonna win like that,” Coach Cerjio Elizarraraz barked at his kids as they came off the field at halftime. “No more mistakes, guys, we gave them two easy ones.”
But after a reminder on basic fundamentals, the Bobcats regrouped to make a solid showing, losing 2-1 and coming very close on a few great opportunities in the late going. Junior forward Marco Cantu slipped past the last defender and then the keeper midway through the second, for an empty-net winner that seemed to energize the team.
Then EHS showed what it is capable of later in the day, knocking off the highly touted Bulldogs, 1-0, on a penalty kick goal from Jaime Juarez, who sat out the South match after being red-carded against Edcouch-Elsa earlier in the week.
“We just kept it up, like we had done against South in the second half,” said Coach Eli Friday afternoon after the big upset, the team’s first outright win of the year. “The defense played a lot better and we got more shot opportunities than they did all game long.”
The win put the Bobcats in good shape, though Saturday they dropped decisions to Mission and Mission vets. But the effort against McHigh was something to build on. Certainly, it was a massive improvement over the first half against South.
As the South game began, Arturo Cantu chased down a Hawk in the right flank, but fouled him hard inside the box, setting up a free kick from David Salazar that made it 1-0, with just five minutes gone.
Edinburg, playing without starters Juarez, Teo Rodriguez, and Jesse Esparza, was sluggish with the ball, holding too long and failing to get second and third touches, or decent passes.
Meanwhile, South moved the ball well and found holes in the EHS D. The Hawks forced to a free kick from 30 yards out, and the boot deflected off a Bobcat defender close to the net, and keeper Roel Herrera’s dive went the opposite way as the ricocheting ball, making it 2-0.
With seniors Mike Ibarra and Arturo “Army” Cantu rebounding from sub-oar performances early on, the ‘Cats attacked consistently after that, managing eight shots on goal, with Cantu hitting the post twice.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome a pair of defensive lapses, something the ‘Cats have struggled with so far in 2008-09.
“That penalty kick was probably what cost us the game, we just made too many mistakes,” Elizarraraz commented afterward. “We came around in the second half, though.”
In their last outing prior to the Leal Tourney, the Bobcats had squandered a 1-0 lead in dropping a 3-1 decision to Edcouch-Elsa at home Tuesday. They have yet to get much rhythm established but seem to have enough raw talent to make a run at a playoff spot.
NOTES: The Edinburg girls finished in third place at the BISD Tourney, with a solid run. The Lady ‘Cats knocked of E-E before going down to eventual tourney champ Brownsville Pace. For third, they took care of Juarez-Lincoln, 1-0, on Alyssa Perez’ goal.
The All-Valley cross country team was well represented by city runners, as EHS coach Tencha Lancaster was co-coach of the year, with Perez making first team with teammates Bekah Rodriguez plus Hilda and Robin Galloso on second. Sam Soria and Ariana Lumbreras were honorable mention for North.
On the boys’ All-Valley unit, Joe Morales and Luis Serrano of North were first-teamers, while Ricky Soto and Omar Trujillo of EHS were second, with North’s Adrian Coronado honorable mention.