HARLINGEN — With a turnover-prone offense, a weary defense and a supercharged and upset-minded opponent, the Landsharks dug down deep. And what they got at Victor Park Saturday was the type of late-game performance that once made them state champs, back in 2006.
Rallying with a 62-yard drive in the final minutes of the game against the Gulf Coast Nightmare, the Sharks improved to 6-0 when quarterback Renato Nunez fired a 27-yard TD pass to Kalani Jaime. Edinburg High ex Jesse Galvan power-vaulted in for the two-point conversion on the Swinging Gate, handing the team a 14-12 win and a reprieve from what looked like Upset City all the way.
The Nightmare (2-4), led by fiery defensive end Joseph Gray and a pair of ex Pharr North stars, John Spears and Michael Giles, had lost to Edinburg earlier in the year. But those three studs, plus QB Mike Mull, once a 1,000-yard rusher for San Benito back in 2002, were sharper this time. Gray had defected from the fold with a handful of mates before the latest season began and he led his new team to a 6-0 lead after one quarter.
The Nightmare ground out 164 yards rushing as Spears and Giles, the latter an All-State defensive end for the Raiders in 2007, took turns pounding a Landshark D missing middle linebacker Mike Martinez but getting inspiring early play from Econ ex Jaime Hinojosa at tackle.
In the first play after the Nightmare score, Jaime fumbled it away, and it took a personal foul on the home side to stop the ensuing drive. It was that kind of night, with heavy amounts of taunting and rough stuff, with the Blackclads holding the edge in the categories.
In the second period, the Sharks moved into the shadow of the enemy goal only to suffer an interception off the arm of Nunez, who was solid with a 10-for-15 night good for 114 yards. Edinburg was outgained on the night.
Galvan barreled 19 yards to begin the second half and again the Sharks advanced deep into Nightmare territory. This time the frustrated former champs came up short after a 14-yard loss and a failed fourth-down pass to Bryon Gonzalez.
It was looking dicey when Mull guided the hard-running ‘Mare downfield, but North grad Joe Miranda cracked Spears and Sergio Rojas fell on the fumble.
Granted new life, the Sharks then went 56 yards in nine plays, with Gonzalez sneaking in from the 2 on an option keeper.
Again, however, the Gulf Coast group answered, punishing the Shark D with runs between the tackles, and it soon took the lead again at 12-6, as the fourth quarter progressed.
On the first play after the kickoff, Coach Joe Ramirez’ unit gave away another turnover, but Miranda again came up big with a strong tackle, giving his guys one last chance.
Nunez was masterful on the final drive, completing three strikes, and finally finding Jaime streaking down the field on a post pattern for the winner. Galvan took a toss left on the trick extra-point, and at the 2, leapt into the air like a rocket and flipped across the end zone in heavy traffic for the conversion.
North ex Frank Fuentes chased Mull of the pocket and all the way to the right sideline on the game’s final play, and the throw went incomplete, saving what would have been a drastic upset.