Hanna did little Saturday to contain its emotion. One player took a knee, stood up and pointed upward. His Golden Eagles teammates nearby jumped and down and celebrated what was arguably their biggest win of the season as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
In what was widely perceived to be a battle for the fourth district spot in 32-5A, Hanna nudged itself into the conversation by beating Brownsville Veterans Memorial 24-20 at Sams Memorial Stadium.
“It means a lot,” said Richard Martinez, who caught the go-ahead touchdown. “We’ve been waiting to win (this game) since last year.”
The Golden Eagles opened the season 0-2, in addition to a scoreless tie during a non-district game that was canceled at halftime due to inclement weather. They tinkered with three quarterbacks at one point, and hadn’t officially named a starter, though Andres Lopez has played a larger role in the offense recently.
In Week 3, he threw three touchdown passes after completing 9 of 11 passes for 202 yards. On Saturday, he connects on a pair of scoring strikes and 159 yards.
Now, the Golden Eagles (2-2, 2-0) own a district winning streak and have a date with Porter (0-4, 0-2) coming up.
“It means that we’re sitting well right now,” Hanna coach Rene Medrano said when asked what the victory meant for his program. “It (also) means we have to get ready to work Monday. That’s all it means.”
Hanna sweated out Saturday’s victory, with the lead changing hands four times during the second half. It trailed 20-17 with 3:54 to play after Marcus Castillo scored on a 4-yard run.
Two plays into the next drive, Lopez found Martinez on a 46-yard pass with 3:03 left to play.
Brownsville Veterans (2-3, 1-2) punted on a quick three-and-out, as did the Golden Eagles.
And upon taking over at their 18 with 1:33 left, the Chargers drove 25 yards on five plays, setting up a fourth-and-10 inside the 47 with 9.7 seconds left.
With no timeouts left, Castillo took a knee and Hanna took over on downs.
“It was a situation where (Castillo) thought it was third down,” Brownsville Veterans coach David Cantu said of his sophomore. “All the chaos and so little time left, it’s just something that we could learn from.”
The Chargers lost for the second straight week, after Harlingen South took a 14-0 win. For the most part, they were without arguably their top offensive threat in Derrik Rodriguez on Saturday.
The junior running back was a game-time decision, with Cantu saying he was bothered by leg muscle. Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, Rodriguez checked into the game and carried twice for 3 yards. He finished the game with 8 yards on three attempts.
“There were certain times (Saturday) he felt he could give it a go, but we’re trying to be real careful,” Cantu said.
In the RGVSports.com preseason poll, Harlingen South, Harlingen High and Los Fresnos were almost unanimously chosen to finish within the top three spots, leaving a fourth playoff position open for one of the remaining six Brownsville schools.
With Saturday’s victory, Hanna is in position to make a run for it, knocking a Brownsville Veterans team that was widely expected to finish fourth in the RGVSports.com preseason poll.
“Honestly, I’ve never been so happy to win a game,” said Lucas Olivares, who caught one of Lopez’s touchdown passes. “I love each and everyone of my teammates. We’re like brothers out there on the field. Coming into this game, we knew it was a big one. I’m not going to lie. It was really anticipated. I knew we had to go 110 percent all four quarters.
He added: “It was just a really big game because last year we knew we had to get revenge (after losing 30-14 to the Chargers). We knew this game was going to be big for the playoffs, and we wanted to be one of those four teams.”
Olivares hauled in 85 yards on four catches, scoring a 46-yard touchdown, to pace their aerial game. On the ground, Brando Barreda led all rushers with 135 yards on 13 carries and an 84-yard scoring run.
“We’re just going to celebrate, but not for too long, because we have another game next week,” Olivares said.