LONGVIEW -- John Tyler and Texas High played a tightly contested game through 66 minutes Thursday in the area round of the Class 4A boys soccer playoffs.

But things unraveled quickly. The John Tyler Lions used the Tigers' mental mistakes to build upon an early 1-0 lead for a 3-0 win and a trip to the third round against either Mt. Pleasant or Pine Tree.

"I think when you get to this point in the playoffs, it's really a tossup out there," John Tyler head coach Howard Story said. "You're not seeing 3-0 games in the third round. You're seeing one-goal differences, 1-0, 2-1, so it's just a sign of a hard-fought game. In the third round, no one wants to go home. No surprises. The train is on the track and we're just going to try to derail their train and keep our momentum going."

Ernesto Hernandez headed in the ball on an assist from Luis Duran to put the Lions on top of Texas High less than four minutes into the game.

John Tyler's Aron Alonso, still getting back up to speed after a concussion, handles the ball. (© Christopher R. Vinn ETSN.fm)

Things settled down quickly. The Tigers played a strong defensive game despite John Tyler mostly dictating the flow of the match.

Texas High just couldn't find the equalizer.

The best chance came when Alex Frederick found some space. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the hasty shot deflected off of John Tyler sweeper Francisco Villela who had charged up to close the gap.

Things abruptly broke down for Texas High when a sweeper tackled Duran in the box for a Lions' penalty kick.

The sweeper avoided the yellow card on the foul, but his argument with the head referee drew the card just before Jose Paz netted the penalty kick past goalkeeper Cooper Zverino for a 2-0 John Tyler lead with 13:10 to play.

A minute later, the same sweeper drew his second card of the match for a red card disqualification on a poor tackle attempt with the Lions on the run once again.

Texas High, now playing with 10 men, gave up a goal to Duran with an assist from Aurelio Godina 48 seconds later to remove any doubt in the match's outcome.

John Tyler's Fredy Hernandez handles the ball around Texas High defenders. (© Christopher R. Vinn ETSN.fm)

"So often you see it where the frustration comes in," Story said. "We've had our share of frustration in some situations this year. Luckily, we had them in the preseason and one of our focuses has been being cold-blooded and keeping our composure. I think we've gotten better about that."

John Tyler (22-2-3) has only lost when one of its players has been disqualified for a foul.

Its most recent red card came on the last day of the regular season against Lindale. That contributed to the Lions' only loss of district play.

John Tyler's next opponent will be the winner of the Mt. Pleasant-Pine Tree match Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

The Lions watched Pine Tree defeat Lindale on Tuesday at Rose Stadium and are free to watch the Pirates and Mt. Pleasant Tigers square off.

"You always know Mt. Pleasant is going to put a good team on the field," Story said. "It was good that I got to see Pine Tree on Tuesday. Just to see their game, I think that was good for me and the team."

The sectional playoff between John Tyler and Mt. Pleasant-Pine Tree will be played after a state-wide hiatus Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for standardized testing.

Story hopes the Lions' next game can be played as soon as the break is over, but he's not complaining about more time to work with the team.

"Pleased with the outcome," Story said. "Suffered at first, but the guys are coming to know what I expect. They also are having expectations of each other. The kids are looking at the game, analyzing the game, and they're not just out there playing kickball and kick-and-chase. The better they understand that game, it's going to make them better players."

John Tyler's Ernesto Hernandez crosses the ball in front of Texas High's Jeffery Davis. (© Christopher R. Vinn ETSN.fm)