Bidistrict football playoffs Harlan 33, Sam Houston 14 First-year Harlan downs Sam Houston
Sam Houston finally got the ball into Harlan territory, but like a lot of things that happened Thursday, things didn’t bounce the Hurricanes’ way.
Jacob Garcia intercepted a pass that deflected off a Sam Houston receiver at Harlan’s 33 and returned it 55 yards late in the first half. That led to a score to send Harlan on its way to a 33-14 victory in a Class 5A Division I first-round game at Farris Stadium.
“That was huge,” Harlan quarterback Kannon Williams said. “We definitely shut their momentum down after that.”
Although the Hawks had built a 20-0 lead at that point, Sam Houston had finally began moving the ball. Garcia’s interception led to Williams’ 12-yard TD pass to Ethan Esparza on the next play to give the Hawks a 27-0 lead with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.
“It was exhilarating,” Garcia said of his interception. “The fact I was able to stay inbounds and take it down the field, and then we turned it into a touchdown. It happened at the right time.”
The play epitomized the way things went for the Hurricanes.
Harlan finished with just a 264-253 advantage in total yardage. The difference was turnovers — Sam Houston had three to Harlan’s none. The Hawks turned two of them into 10 points.
“Any turnover we could get was amazing,” Harlan coach Eddie Salas said. “They do a great job at Sam Houston. Those kids are so athletic, and at any point, they can break one out. Their quarterback is amazing, and for us to even keep up with him was good for our defense.”
Sam Houston quarterback Raymond Citizen accounted for both of the Hurricanes’ scores — with a 1-yard TD run and a 17-yard scamper. But the Hurricanes didn’t crack the scoreboard until the 1:05 mark of the third quarter after the Hawks led 30-0.
Citizen completed 13 of 19 passes for 166 yards and rushed 18 times for 59 yards.
Harlan (8-3) earned the postseason win in its first varsity season.
The Hawks next face Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial at 1 p.m. next Friday at Buccaneer Stadium in Corpus Christi. Veterans Memorial was a 44-14 winner over Brownsville Veterans Memorial on Thursday.
Harlan dominated the first half. The Hurricanes didn’t record their initial first down until the 3:20 mark of the second quarter and didn’t cross the midfield mark until 1just before Garcia’s interception.
Sophomore running back Aubrey McDade and Anthony Esparza scored two touchdowns apiece in the first half.
McDade capped the game’s opening drive — a 15-play, 63-yard march that went more than six minutes — with a 1-yard TD run.
Esparza made it 14-0 at the 10:44 mark of the second quarter with a 19-yard scoring catch.
“It was good to come and open up with a couple of touchdowns and get ahead,” Salas said. “It helped our kids relax. We’re young. Any time we get ahead, it works in our favor.”
McDade scored from 2 yards out with 4:07 left in the second quarter to make it 20-0. The score was set up by an 8-yard Sam Houston punt that went to the Hawks 34.
Alejandro Garcia had field goals of 26 and 23 yards in the second half for Harlan.
“What we talked about all week was let them make mistakes and not let us do it,” Salas said. “We thought if we could play real sound football, we’d be all right, and that’s kind of how it happened.”