Taking its toll

Del Rio Rams linebacker Parker Hanson tries to catch his breath on the sidelines of Comalander Stadium with the aid of an oxygen tank during the 2011 Area playoff game between Del Rio and Harlingen.

Editor’s note: This feature will take a look back at some of the favorite sporting moments as recommended by Del Rio News-Herald readers. To submit a game, or sporting event, please go online and visit facebook.com/DRNHSports and post your favorite moment and a comment about why it was your favorite.

The Game: - 2011 Area Round Football Playoff Game - Del Rio vs. Harlingen

The Place: - Comalander Stadium, San Antonio, Texas

The Date: - November 19, 2011

“At best this will be one of those games that people across the state will be talking about for years to come. It could come down to the final possession and a play that is well defended but still successful that sends one team onto the next round and leaves the other sad but proud to have been part of such a memorable contest.”

I wrote those words for the Nov. 18, 2011 edition of the Del Rio News-Herald in describing the upcoming Area round playoff game between the 9-2 Del Rio Rams and 11-0 Harlingen Cardinals.

Going into the game, I knew this was going to be one of the toughest games Del Rio had played in many years. Harlingen was a legit powerhouse at the time. They had just hung more than 60 points on Los Fresnos in the Bi-District round, averaged 54 points per game during the regular season and were ranked in the state at the time they headed into the game against Del Rio.

Del Rio, on the other hand, didn’t even win its district. They were picked to finish fourth before the season began and wound up second. They had lost a significant portion of the playoff team from the year prior, which included future NCAA Division I starters Kevin Pierre-Louis and Cory James, and were, on paper, a pretty young team.

And yet, here they were, meeting at San Antonio’s Comalander Stadium for a chance to advance to the regional semifinals. Both teams had made it that far the year prior, but this time only one was going to get to make that trip.

“We need to make sure we play great defense and not give up big plays, eliminate penalties and not turn the ball over. If we can do that then we’ll put ourselves in a great opportunity to win the ballgame,” Rams head football coach Steve Hoffman said.

Those were Hoffman’s keys to beating Harlingen. Hoffman never liked to give away too much when discussing upcoming games. He knew that Harlingen was going to be a tough team and he knew our guys were up to the task even if no one else, especially the folks around Harlingen, believed it.

Unfortunately, Hoffman’s worst fears came to light on Del Rio’s very first possession as wide receiver Jordan Terrell fumbled. Harlingen recovered and scored four plays later, taking a 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game.

I was bummed. I pictured just one misstep after another and another season lost to a handful of errors.

Then it happened.

“But the lead lasted for all of 13 seconds because that’s how long it took Del Rio’s Cesar Martinez to return the ensuing kickoff 92 yards and Mark Esquivel to add the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.”

When Martinez took the kickoff back for a score it was like someone flipped the switch and sucked all the energy out of Harlingen’s side of the field and transferred it to ours. Those rabid fans dressed in red that were just seconds ago settled in to watch their team wipe the floor with these “nobodies” from Del Rio just saw their lead vanish in a cloud of dust and the big blue wave of Del Rio fans came alive as if to say, “Now it’s a game!”

Jorge Fernandez had himself a game. He threw three touchdowns and helped keep Del Rio alive.

Jordan Terrell was the other big playmaker on the day. He had two touchdowns including an 80-yard kickoff return for a score.

The entire game was a wild affair. Neither team led by more than seven points at any one time. There were four ties in the game. Harlingen’s special teams blocked two field goals and an extra point and still the Cardinals won by only three points.

The thing I remember most was the respect each team showed the other after the game was over. They all knew it was game for the ages.

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