WHITEHOUSE -- Tatum's boys were not a happy group in the first minutes after a 1-0 loss to Mabank in the Class 4A bi-district playoff round.

The Eagles played the Panthers tight for 66 full minutes at Whitehouse's Wildcat Stadium, but freshman midfielder Jacob Gonzales got the winning touch in high traffic and volleyed a bouncing ball into the goal's top right corner with 13:18 remaining. 

"Just ugh," Tatum head coach Angel Rocha said. "It was just a lucky goal. It was a good idea from that kid just taking the shot when he saw fit. He caught our goalie out of position and he just got one on us. Sometimes you've just got to have the luck of the bounce and I think they did on that one."

It was a goal that cost sleep Thursday evening.

Fortunately, simply getting through high school requires some resiliency. The bad days generally fade away against the big picture.

Tatum's 2015 team was a special group. It was the first to represent its community on the pitch at the highest interscholastic level.

"We've been playing a club season for about five years," Rocha said. "We had been playing about 10 games a season and tournaments here and there. Junior varsity games. Just getting whatever game we could to play. Last year, our school board thought it was a good idea and a great opportunity for us to compete at the UIL level.

"I thought we were ready for it. I think, this year, we proved it."

With a booming state population, East Texas teams have encountered many new schools and athletics programs. It's not very often a brand new varsity team can push as far as the Eagles did.

Third-place in District 16-4A against the likes of fellow playoff teams Henderson, Kilgore and Waskom. One goal away from setting the bar that much higher for its future players.

"We had a bunch of ups and downs," Rocha said. "The season didn't go quite as planned. We battled from some injuries. We knew we were going into a tough district with Kilgore and Henderson, the top big dogs that stayed down from last year's realignment. But we knew we could play competitively with them. The goal for these guys was to get into the playoffs.

"We also wanted to get a win. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way."

Devon Boyd, a former standout on the school's football team, recorded eight saves in his final soccer game. His speed and athleticism gave Mabank a complex code to crack.

Mabank -- the second-place team from District 15-4A -- out shot the Eagles by a 19-4 margin yet only got four good looks against Boyd and the back line of defense.

Taum's offense nearly found the equalizer with less than two minutes left when Lorenzo Luna targeted a streaking set of forwards on a free kick. The ball was just a little too difficult to trap and set for a shot from close range.

Mabank managed to stall from there with clearances to the sidelines and took its time on throw-ins and free kicks.

The Eagles' soccer team has the green light to continue next season. It will only lose three letter winners to graduation.

"When people say 'Tatum' they think of the great football tradition, great basketball and great track," Rocha said. "It's time for people to know we play soccer, too. They worked extremely hard to get to this moment. It's heartbreaking to see the seniors work during club seasons in past and get a shot at the UIL playoffs and get a playoff UIL win. It's hard to see them only get one shot at it. Them and even the players that came before them."

 

Mabank Eliminates Lady Eagles

The Tatum girls team coincidentally drew Mabank as its bi-district playoff opponent as well and preceded the boys' inaugural playoff appearance inside Wildcat Stadium.

It was arguably a tougher task. Mabank dominated District 15-4A while the Lady Eagles fought for a fourth-place finish in the adjacent league.

Tatum fell 4-0.

Mabank put 12 shots on goal in its win. The Lady Eagles struggled for offensive breaks and only managed one late shot attempt, which hit the side of the goal.

Scoring for Mabank began in the 18th minute where Meagan Holyfield netted a shot from 11 yards out. The team added a second goal 13 minutes later on a similar attempt from Catherine Turner.

Turner opened scoring less than two minutes into the second half on a feed from Holyfied.

Mabank closed the game with a breakaway goal from Kaitlyn Baker six minutes afterward.

Tatum's Kaitlyn Miller made eight saves in the loss.