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Kilgore Scores Three Second-Half Goals to Pull Away for 4-0 Win Over Athens at Michael Merritt Annual Tournament

Kilgore’s Victor Martinez (right) makes a break for the goal as Athens’ Bryant Castaneda defends during the Bulldogs’ 4-0 win in Thursday’s match at the Michael Merritt Annual Tournament at Kilgore’s R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

KILGORE — Victor Martinez slammed the door on Athens with two second-half goals to lead Kilgore to a 4-0 shutout victory in Thursday’s soccer match at KHS’s Michael Merritt Annual Tournament at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

The win was a good sign to Kilgore coach Aaron Erickson, who has only four returning starters from last year’s team, which won the District 32-4A championship and finished in the final eight in the state as a Class 4A Region II finalist. Fellow East Texas team Mount Pleasant, which enters 2013 ranked No. 1 in 4A Region II by the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches, knocked out the bulldogs in the regional title in Carrollton.

“I was pretty pleased,” Erickson said after the victory. “I feel like after what I saw last Saturday we’ve improved quite a bit already. As long as we can build on that before district, that’s all I’m really worried about.”

Kilgore, which is ranked No. 2 in 4A Region II by the TASCO, led 1-0 at halftime thanks to Jose Rico’s goal off a Christian Galvan assist less than eight minutes into the game.

Kilgore (1-0) put the game away with three second-half goals.

The first came on Martinez’s header off an Andy Espinoza cross in the 54th minute.┬áThat led to a high-velocity shot from 20-plus yards off Bustos’ right foot for a 3-0 lead in the 68th minute.

Martinez capped the scoring with his second goal, a short-range shot in a crowd in the 76th minute.

“He’s listening, doing what he’s supposed to do, and following what he’s been told,” Erickson said of Martinez’s two-goal performance, “and that put him in the right position to put them away. I’m glad he did.”

Kilgore has reached at least the regional finals three consecutive years, including a 2011 state championship appearance. That reputation has helped the Bulldogs gain statewide recognition, such as the No. 2 ranking despite losing more than half of their starters.

Erickson said he and the players pay no attention to the rankings.

“I think these guys are more worried about doing better than the year before,” Erickson said. “I think that’s more in the mind than the rankings and what the state thinks about us.”

Kilgore plays Paris at 7 p.m. Friday and Palestine at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Michael Merritt Annual Tournament. Athens plays Tyler Lee at 3 p.m. Friday and Paris at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the event.

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