LONGVIEW -- Pittsburg learned a lesson Tuesday at Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium that can serve it well through the remainder of the Class 4A boys soccer playoffs. It's not over until it's over.

A seemingly meaningless goal inside the final 40 seconds of regulation proved to be the difference maker in a 2-1 area playoff round victory against Henderson.

"I would have never thought we were going to need that goal," junior forward Victor Ponce said. "I was shocked with what happened next. But I'm excited and ready to go. We want to go win every playoff game there is."

Victor Ponce's first half tackle against Henderson's Justin Rojas translated into a rare early offensive possession for Pittsburg. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Ponce's point-blank score with 34:32 remaining in the second half gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead. It was the centerpiece of Pittsburg's sustained response after a shaky opening 20 minutes.

All but the final seconds of the match, anyway.

With eight ticks remaining -- and just 31 seconds after the Pirates' late score -- Ponce's go-ahead goal was scratched as the defining moment.

Henderson's David Hinojosa capped a great final possession with a strong drive and shot to put the Lions on the board.

The game-winner came with 39 seconds to play. Osvaldo Aguilar delivered a perfect pass to Eric Cisneros on a corner kick and Cisneros netted it from mid-range.

"I never imagined that we would have needed it," head coach Weston Griffis said. "They score with eight seconds left and it gives you a little scare. But the kids did great tonight."

The shock around Lions' lone goal was how well the Pirates managed to overcome the difficult initial stretch.

Henderson dictated tempo early. Aided by a strong southerly wind pushing toward the attacking goal, it held possession for stretches long enough to park the back line of defense past the midfield line.

A series of athletic runs by Ponce well into the first frame helped Pittsburg find footing.

He helped set up a scoring opportunity for Jonathan Ramirez, a shot which rolled just wide of the goal with 18 minutes to play in the half. Ponce also dinged one off the right pipe a few minutes before midway whistle.

The Pirates closed the first half with two scoring chances to Henderson's one and tied the Lions in the shots on goal department with three.

Then Pittsburg -- the District 13-4A champion -- got the wind.

Joseph Gutierrez made four saves for the Pirates and contested seven other Henderson shots that were off the mark in Pittsburg's playoff win. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

"I told the guys, if we could keep it at 0-0 at the half, we'd be just fine," Griffis said. "That was a factor, and it was a big gust. I thought if we could play great defense and get to the second half with no score there was no doubt we'd win the game. The defense played great. I can't say enough about our kids and how well they played the first and second half."

Henderson, the runner-up in District 16-4A and 5-1 winners against Chapel Hill in the opening round, got three marginal scoring looks between Pittsburg's first and second goal.

Goalkeeper Joseph Gutierrez kept the Lions at distance with four saves and solid positioning.

It was a big win for Pittsburg, which enjoyed automatic admission into the second round. The first boys soccer playoff victory in school history.

"We've been looking forward to this since we started the soccer program," Griffis said. "I got here two years ago and, thank goodness, I inherited these guys. It's a great group and we knew it was going to be a great group."

The Pirates will take on Mabank at 6 p.m. Tuesday inside Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium.

Griffis, Ponce and company got a good look at Mabank following their game. Mabank played immediately after Pittsburg at Pirate Stadium and eliminated Liberty-Eylau by a 7-1 score.

"We're going to practice all week hard," Ponce said. "Hopefully we'll come out ready for that game, too."

Eric Cisneros puts home the game-winner against Henderson at Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

 

Mabank Routs Liberty-Eylau

LONGVIEW -- Striker TaVian Gullatt's breakaway goal gave Liberty-Eylau a chance to keep within striking distance of Mabank at Pirate Stadium, but the Leopards season ended Tuesday with a 7-1 loss.

Gullatt's score cut Mabank's lead to 3-1 with 33:33 remaining.

That was all L-E could muster.

Mabank got on the board less than two minutes into the area round playoff game with a goal from Carlos Olivares. Jose Gallegos pushed the lead further with 16:10 to play in the first half.

Gallegos opened second half scoring after recovering a juicy rebound from a Mabank free kick just outside the penalty area. He also answered Gullatt's goal at with 22:12 remaining.

Israel Gutierrez followed Gallegos' hat trick goal with a free kick near the penalty area's perimeter. Nick Greenville put up Mabank's sixth goal of the night with five minutes to play.

Mabank scored its final tally with 11 seconds remaining on Jordan Cottrell's penalty kick.

Despite the lopsided score, Liberty-Eylau keeper Devonte Gillian made 13 saves for the Leopards. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)