Kilgore Boys Knock Out Mabank + Return To Regional Tournament
TYLER -- Kilgore caught most of the breaks in its 4-1 Class 4A Region II quarterfinal playoff game win Tuesday against Mabank at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
A nearly flawless night from the Bulldogs' midfielders and back line didn't hurt though. Credit tough defense as much as being in the right place at the right time offensively in the storied East Texas program's return to the regional tournament.
The winning side allowed nine total shots around the goal while its own steals spurred it to 31 total shots the other way.
"We always focus on our defense before we do anything else," Kilgore head coach Austin Walker said. "We're always going to have somebody step up and make the goals, but the defense needs to play well for the rest of the team to play well. We really focus on keeping everything in front of us."
The Bulldogs will face Crandall, 2-0 victors Tuesday against Kaufman, in the regional semifinals. It's a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday back at Rose Stadium with the winner of the game advancing to the Region II championship game Saturday.
Kilgore (19-5-2) dominated possession through the regional quarterfinal game's first 35 minutes and built a 2-0 lead. Yonatan Contreras scored both goals on rebounds off the Mabank goalkeeper.
Contreras' first goal, in the 16th minute, came off a crossing shot from fellow forward Jose Contreras. The keeper dove for the ball, but it took an awkward bounce in his hands and landed at Yonatan Contreras' right foot.
Mabank (19-5-2) gave away the second tally on an errant one-timer clearing attempt off a shot right to Yonatan Contreras 22 minutes later.
However, Mabank quickly answered on James Coker's close range shot at the 3:23 mark of the period. It was the team's very first shot on goal.
Mabank nearly tied the game before the halftime whistle when one of its forwards found the ball about five yards from the goal line. Unfortunately for him, his back was facing the goal and he didn't get as much of the ball as he needed on his heel kick.
Kilgore goalie Tomas Tapia recovered to scoop up the slow roller and maintained the 2-1 advantage.
Tapia made three saves in the second half.
Meanwhile, Spencer Stegall capitalized on a third rebound eight minutes into the second half. The original shot came from Eli Velasquez.
Emmanuel Ceja scored from 35 yards away later in the frame to close scoring.
"We talk all the time about how you've got to follow your shot," Walker said. "There they were. If we didn't follow our shots, you're looking at a 1-1 game. Every day, we preach someone better be following. Practice pays off."
Kilgore was one of the area's best teams last season, but, after winning the regional tournament last year, the program fell to San Elizario in the state semifinals.
Henderson, a 2-0 winner against Chapel Hill, and Ferris, 3-0 winners over Wilmer-Hutchins, will join the Bulldogs and Crandall as the four-team regional tournament field seeking the region's state tournament berth.
"We were at this point last year and our focus from here on out is one game at a time," Walker said. "We're trying to do one game better than we did last year. This was our goal at the beginning. We had a lot of our core group coming back and we all knew where we wanted to be at the end of the year. At this point, it's just one game at a time."