Kilgore Boys Scrape By Henderson In Overtime For Regional Championship
TYLER -- Saturday's Class 4A Region II championship game was everything players from Kilgore and Henderson billed it to be. It took extra time at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium to separate the top two teams not only from District 16-4A but also the northern half of East Texas.
Yonatan Contreras lifted the Bulldogs to a 2-1 win and a UIL Soccer State Tournament berth on his second goal of the match with 1:50 left in the second and final period of non-sudden death overtime.
"I'm really happy for my team," Contreras, a junior midfielder, said. "This was a great match. I would not want to play anybody else besides Henderson for a regional final."
The Lions (19-5-1) -- who handed Kilgore its only loss of the campaign as part of a two-game regular season series -- staved off wave after wave of Bulldogs scoring chances. Kilgore (19-1-7) created nine of the 10 opportunities through regulation after giving up a 1-0 lead.
An array of stops, missed shots and a kick off the crossbar with 5:36 left in regulation kept the Lions in it.
Henderson got the 10th and final real chance in normal time.
Carlos Orta found a loose ball and some open space inside the final two minutes of the second half. Bulldogs goalkeeper Tomas Tapia ran out to meet him and got just enough of the ball to spoil a 15-yard chip.
Orta almost made up for it midway through the first overtime period. A better chip got up above the crossbar and began dropping down like an inverted curveball.
Tapia recovered for the save.
Andrew Epinoza almost became the hero for Kilgore in the second overtime period instead of Contreras. His open net shot was pulled off the goal line by the right foot of Henderson sweeper Jorge Guzman.
While the action continued on the field, the coaches were remiss not to consider their lineups for the final tiebreaker of penalty kicks.
Then Christian Galvan drove down, crossed the ball to Contreras and Contereas knocked it home from five yards.
Henderson didn't create another chance in the final seconds of overtime.
"He's finished balls all year," Kilgore coach Austin Walker said. "Of course it's fitting he finishes one there. Obviously, it was a great game all around. We had our chances. They had their chances. Unfortunately, we couldn't put it away a little sooner than a minute and 50 seconds. But that's soccer and how it happens.
"Kudos to (Henderson). They played a heck of a game. That's what it always is when it's Kilgore-Henderson."
Orta started the game with a bang for the Lions. He placed a corner kick right into the body of Julio Cervantes less than five minutes past the opening kick for the easiest of four goals Cervantes scored in a two-game span.
Raul Cedillo's lead pass to Contreras evened the score 11 minutes later. Contreras' 15-yard strike spearheaded an offensive assault through the end of normal time.
"The whole game was super intense because it's a district rivalry," Kilgore senior midfielder Spencer Stegall said. "So, that's already intense because of that. And to go to state? It was crazy."
Indeed, the Bulldogs are heading to the state tournament. For a second consecutive year.
Kilgore fell to San Elizario last year in the state semifinals by a score of 5-1.
Palestine -- which defeated Center on Saturday in the Region III championship game -- plus Argyle and Progresso make up the remainder of this year's 4A state tournament field. The UIL will announce its state semifinals parings Sunday.
All of the semifinal games will be played Wednesday at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. That site also will play host to the 4A championship game Friday.
"There are other teams that are out there that are good, too," Contreras said. "It's not just us. We can't get too cocky. We just need to play our game."