Palestine’s Perfect Season Spoiled in 1-0 State Championship Loss
GEORGETOWN – John Absalom turned to face the crowd.
Hundreds of fans donning maroon shirts offered cheers of consolation. Palestine was minutes removed from a 1-0 loss to San Elizario in the 4A state championship, but Absalom was already looking forward.
“We’re going to be back, baby,” he said. “We’re not done.”
Absalom coached Palestine to a near perfect record. It was the second time in the past three seasons the Wildcats played in the championship match. They won in 2016.
Although Palestine entered as the favorite, San Elizario was in control all afternoon. The Eagles scored in the 17th minute when Martin Rodriguez got a pass from Alexander Devora and let fly from 20 yards out.
Palestine spent the rest of the game chasing a goal that seemed far out of its grasp.
“It’s pretty hard,” Absalom said. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my life with coaching. I have to say this is one of the hardest losses to accept. To be so close and have it right there at your hands. God had a different plan and we just have to move forward.”
Absalom said Palestine played the second period with a fervor it lacked in the first. But at that point it was too late. San Elizario was aggressive from the start, and it paid off for the Eagles.
“I think as you saw the second half progress we started getting a little more physical,” he said. “We should have done that earlier in the match. You’ve got to play with what the referee lets you get away with. That’s just the way soccer is. We didn’t change our tactics quick enough.”
Palestine doubled its shots in the second half, going from four to eight. The best chance for the Wildcats to get an equalizer came with only 7:30 left. Javier Leonor, who had been the biggest offensive weapon for Palestine throughout the playoffs, lined up for a free kick. Although the shot looked on line, Steve Salais got the save. Palestine didn’t get another look near as close.
San Elizario claimed its second state title. Palestine was not alone in its offensive struggles, as the Eagles didn’t allow a goal all postseason.
As indicated by his postgame message, Absalom has lofty expectations for next season. Palestine will lose a few players, but Leonor, goalkeeper Christian Hutchinson and forward Riley Harper all return next year, among others.
For now, Absalom wants his team to know that though it lost, the season won’t lose any of its luster.
“We’ll let this sink in and burn over the weekend,” he said. “But when we come back Monday we’ll pick stuff up. You gotta start working and getting after it. That’s our goal every year at Palestine. To get to the state tournament. We’re trying to get down here to Georgetown.”