Late Goal Helps Kilgore Fend Off Pesky Whitehouse, 2-1, in Playoff Opener
LINDALE -- Before the game even started, Kilgore coach Aaron Erickson was nervous -- not the typical exterior for a district championship-winning coach facing a fourth-place team in the first round of the playoffs.
As it turned out, he had plenty reason to be concerned.
Kilgore overcame an early deficit and superb defense and goaltending from Whitehouse to escape with a 2-1 win in their Class 4A bi-district playoff Tuesday night at Eagle Stadium.
Alexis Torres' goal, assisted by Ramse Mojica on a two-on-one breakway, with less than 10 minutes remaining proved to be the difference.
District 32-4A champion Kilgore, which has reached the regional tournament in each of the last four seasons, will face Pittsburg in the area round of the playoffs. The match is tentatively sent for 6:30 p.m. Friday in Pittsburg.
The two teams traded goals in what was a very competitive and physical first half, and it seemed as if Tuesday night's match was bound for overtime and potentially a shootout before Kilgore used its speed to create the one-man advantage on the break. With about 15 yards between Mojica and the net, he found Torres, who slid a shot by a diving Cade Parrish for the eventual game-winner.
"It's something we've actually been working on all year," Erickson said of the goal. "I'd been telling them during the game 'don't be greedy, don't be greedy.' I couldn't have asked for anything less greedy from those guys. It was nice."
After going on the offensive at the outset, Whitehouse went into prevent mode after scoring the match's first goal midway through the first half. Kilgore found the equalizer about 12 minutes later and had its chances to take the lead, but Parrish turned away shot after shot in the opening half. The Whitehouse keeper finished the night with 14 saves.
"He played great and came up real big for them," Erickson said of Parrish. "Some of the chances that we had he did a really good job, and their back line did a great job. I was nervous the whole time. That's one thing I was worried about: them coming out and playing great defense -- waiting, waiting and waiting and countering on us like they did in the first half."
Travis Blackburn's header with 22:29 remaining in the first half gave the upstart Wildcats an early 1-0 lead, but Kilgore answered on Benito Bustos' unassisted goal with less than 10 minutes to play until halftime.
"I've got seven guys that've been around for the past three years," Erickson said. 'They've done this before, and that's definitely something that I'm thankful for. I think that hopefully gives us an edge. It's just a testament to them and their character. We had a lot of good opportunities I think we should've put away, but we missed some really good ones. Luckily, we didn't pay for it."