Harlandale stops Lanier in playoff football stunner

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Senior keeper Alfonso Acosta was left alone for a while as his teammates celebrated in midfield after Harlandale earned a stunning 2-1 win over Lanier in a Class 5A first-round playoff on Thursday night at Alamo Stadium .

“I was happy and just wanted to cry,” Acosta said.

Acosta did not stay alone for long. His teammates rushed towards him where they continued their celebrations in front of the net.

It was Harlandale’s first playoff victory since 2014, when he beat Laredo Martin 1-0. Harlandale next faces the winner of Friday’s showdown between Georgetown East View and Alamo Heights. The game is at Alamo Heights.

Junior forward Hugo Robledo provided both goals for Harlandale (14-9-3), the fourth-place team in the 28-5A District.

But it was Acosta’s intoxicating play at net, coupled with the performance of senior defender Joshua Cantu, that helped Harlandale secure the clash against 27-5A champion Lanier (22-4).

With Harlandale holding a 1-0 lead, Acosta saved a Bienvenu Mubalame penalty with 3:01 remaining in the first half.

“I was just thinking about blocking the shot and guessing where it was going,” said Acosta, who finished with six saves. “He knows how to shoot from different angles. It’s quite tough.

This preserved the lead provided by Robledo’s penalty 16 minutes earlier.

“I was excited about the PK,” Robledo said. “I had a lot of pressure on me, but I stayed calm so I could take the PK.”

It was Mubalame’s best scoring chance as Cantu did a solid job of scoring him. Mubalame entered with 32 goals and 13 assists. He finished the match without scoring.

“It was a really big challenge because he has more mobility than me,” Cantu said. “As he was smaller and much faster than me, I had to be on my toes all the time. I kept my pace behind him and tried to stay with him all the time.

Harlandale took a 2-0 lead with 27:48 into the second half on Robledo’s second goal.

“When we take the lead, we don’t like to stay calm,” Robledo said. “We like to keep the pressure on, so we can hold the team and play well the whole game.”

Three minutes later, Lanier made it 2-1 from Alberto Ortiz.

Lanier pressed more forwards in the final 10 minutes in search of the equalizer.

Harlandale, playing with five defenders for most of the game, held off the skillful Voks.

Mubalame missed high on the net with Acosta out of position with 10:00 to go. Lanier got Acosta beat, but a shot rolled left.

Acosta wasn’t fooled by Lanier’s last chance, snuffing out a rocket fire with 30 seconds remaining.

“I just felt relieved,” Acosta said. “Everything throughout the season. The pressure coming into this game. … When I got the ball back at the last minute, it was just a relief.

Harlandale avenged an earlier loss to Lanier – a 2-1 defeat at the Harlandale ISD tournament on January 14.

“It was very difficult, to be honest,” Acosta said. “Being the number four seed against the number one seed of the other district. Throughout the season we had ups and downs in defense but in the end we won the trophy, and it’s well deserved.

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