Kilgore Avenges State Semifinal Loss + Snaps Palestine’s 55-Game Unbeaten Streak
BULLARD -- Yonatan Contreras and the rest of the Kilgore Bulldogs waited 51 weeks to get another shot at Palestine and came up huge in a rematch of the 2016 state semifinal round.
Contreras scored two goals and added an assist in a 4-2 Class 4A regional quarterfinal victory Tuesday at Bullard Brook Hill's Herrington Stadium. The win snapped a Wildcats' unbeaten streak that stretched back to Jan. 15, 2016, and it ensured a new state champion will be crowned next week in Georgetown.
Palestine, which gave up four consecutive goals in this meeting, won the title last season two days after bouncing Kilgore with a penalty kicks win after a 0-0 draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of extra time.
"Obviously, we wanted another chance to play them after what happened last year in the state semifinals," Kilgore coach Austin Walker said. "We didn't get the result we wanted there, but thankfully we were able to come out after a little bit of a slow start and jump back on them real quick after a little adjustment."
The Wildcats (25-1-3) faced an early onslaught and got bailed out once by sweeper Daniel Sanchez at the goal line, but it took its first step toward a win just six minutes into the game when Chris Giron finished a perfect crossing pass from Javier Leonor.
Kilgore (18-5-2) got even nine minutes later on a Contreras corner kick Jose Gonzalez was able to net. An own goal shortly afterward gave Contreras and company a lead they never relinquished.
The go-ahead goal came from an innocent enough tap by Raul Cedillo that spun out of Palestine's goalkeeper's clasped hands and into the net.
Contreras made it a 3-1 game at the 9:08 mark of the first half. His shot from range just barely crossed the goal line before sweeper Daniel Sanchez scissor kicked the ball out of play.
Kilgore built a three-goal lead 13 minutes into the second half. Contreras got the ball home after beating the keeper one-on-one.
Giron scored for the Wildcats with 19 minutes to play on a penalty kick, but his squad never really threatened again.
"I felt really good about it, scoring quickly," Palestine coach John Absalom said. "I thought that the pressure might mount on them because they've been to the (state tournament) a couple of years in a row and came up short. Man, though, it was like it made them mad. They just came after us and we didn't come ready for the battle."
Absalom's side got away eight total shots. The Bulldogs racked up 15 attempts.
Palestine should be back in force once again next season. Only three players from a 24-man roster will graduate later this spring.
Up next for Kilgore is a regional semifinal game versus Dallas A+ Academy, a 4 p.m. first kick Friday at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler. The winner of the meeting will turn around Saturday to play either Chapel Hill or Irving Ranchview for the right to advance to Georgetown.
"We're going to take it to them and try to take them out of their element," Walker said. "That's always our goal. Make them adjust for us and not have to adjust for them. Have them be worried about playing us. Let's just take it to them. Whatever happens, happens."