It began amid much promise, this postseason that welcomed five Edinburg teams to the dance for the first time in history. When the first round was over, though, not one of the units was left standing.
While some of the defeats were understandable, such as the No. 4 seed EHS boys and girls dropping out against District 32-5A champs Brownsville Lopez and Los Fresnos, respectively, others were puzzling.
Foremost among the bi-district surprises was the 4-3 defeat suffered at the hands of Brownsville Pace by the boys’ league titlist Econ. The Jags came in feeling confident after an 11-3 league slate compared to No. 4 seed Pace’s 8-6, but the Vikings won a high-scoring affair on their home field. It was a dramatic and bitter close to the year as Carlos Vazquez missed a penalty kick with three seconds left that could have tied matters.
As for North, the boys expired in a shootout with Brownsville Porter, 2-1, the same score by which the Lady Coogs ended the year, at the short end of a 1-goal count versus Brownsville Rivera. The loss by North marked the first bi-district stumble for the program after three straight first-round wins dating back to 2007.
EHS BOYS FIGHT TO DEATH VERSUS STATE POWER
The Bobcats knew that playing against the state’s No. 7 team left them little room for error. They would have to come out and hold the line early, hoping to hang around within striking distance long enough to break free on offense.
Edinburg’s plan worked well enough for more than 30 minutes of the first half at home Tuesday, as the vaunted Lobos of Brownsville Lopez, losers of just two games all year, held just a 1-0 advantage to that point.
The defense paced by veteran Teo Rodriguez and outstanding Angel Ibarra held off the Lobo attack with a number of last-second clears, after Lopez ran well, passed with precision, and made six strong approaches to the zone, mainly from the left.
With 8:14 to go in the half, however, the dam broke, and after scoring twice in the latter stages, Lopez went on to post a 4-0 shutout win, ending a fine comeback Edinburg season for Coach Luis Cardenas’ club.
As stated, an underdog four seed has to play a nearly flawless match to stay up with such a talented district champ. And when the Bobcats committed a goalkeeper bobble off a shot at 8:14, sophomore Sigifredo Zavala took advantage, knocking in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.
After the ‘Cats raced downfield to get a couple of decent chances, Lopez tallied again at 4:24. Freshman Sergio Romo had broken free for Edinburg with a teammate on either wing; but he hesitated in feeding Juan “Yankee” Martinez on the left, and lost control.
Still, EHS got it back and managed a long free kick to a goal catch from junior Juan Aparicio. But then Lopez stormed down and went up 3-0 when Jorge Cantu bounced in a header out front off a ball deflection, after a throw-in.
At the end of the half, senior star Jaime Juarez, who found the going mighty tough against a physical and good-size Lobo unit, had a quality shot attempt, missing wide left with three minutes to go. Edinburg got few opportunities in the game (three shots on goal to 15 for Lopez) as the visitor controlled the ball and spent most of the first 40 minutes hammering away at the other end.
The ‘Cats, who advanced to the postseason for the first time since the Glory Days of the mid-2000s, held the Valley’s top squad to one goal in the second half, and hustled to the end, with the gutty Rodriguez fighting inside as the clock ticked away.
But this was Lopez’ night as the Lobos showed what the hype has been about all season. Their ball skills and confident touches kept the home side off balance throughout. Still, Cardenas welcomes back the lion’s share of a young and spirited group for next season, hoping to build on the fourth-place finish in a very salty 31-5A.
NOTES: The Lady Bobcats put up a super fight against 32-5A winner Los Fresnos, holding the Lady Falcons scoreless through 100 minutes. The only trouble was, zero points on offense, leading to an eventual 1-0 shootout loss for EHS, which won 22 games this season, its highest win total ever.