Kilgore Claims Dramatic Win on Penalty Kicks For First State Soccer Championship
GEORGETOWN — In the moments following Kilgore’s first soccer state championship win, the players formed a victory circle around senior captain David Garcia.
The four-year starter, injured two days earlier and unavailable for the final, was holding up the jersey of former Kilgore girls soccer player Samantha Watkins who passed away in December.
As the ring of victorious Bulldogs went round-and-round celebrating Kilgore’s dramatic 4-2 win in penalty kicks over Bridgeport for the 4A state championship, it became clear Kilgore was playing for something bigger than a state title.
“I’m so proud of them; I can’t really tell you how proud I am,” said Garcia, who suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle in his team’s 2-0 semifinal win Wednesday. “I’m just so emotional right now, I really have no words."
Watkins stopped breathing after suffering a seizure and was in a coma for a few days before passing away at age 18.
“Earlier this season Sam passed away and me and (boys teammate Yonatan Contreras) promised that we’d get a state title for them, and now that we did it’s an amazing feeling. We know she’s with us, and we know she’s here.”
Not only did the Kilgore (21-5-2) boys team pay homage to the memory of Watkins and persevere without the services of its captain, the Bulldogs ended years of frustration at the state soccer tournament.
Kilgore fell in the 2011 state final, and lost in the semifinals in each of the previous two seasons. The Bulldogs fell to eventual state champ Palestine in penalty kicks in the round of four last year.
“We were on the losing end of (penalty kicks) last year, so I know exactly how (Bridgeport) is feeling right now, going home disappointed like that,” Kilgore coach Austin Walker said. “I’m just so thankful that we pulled it off.”
All four regulation goals were scored in the first half, and after 60 scoreless minutes, the title came down to a shootout.
Kilgore junior keeper Kaleb Jett, the game’s Most Valuable Player, stopped back-to-back shots by Jose Martinez and Andrew Stotts. And after Jesus Gonzalez gave Kilgore its first lead in PK’s, sophomore Raul Cedillo pushed his shot just to the right of the Bridgeport keeper for the win.
“I had it in my head, ‘if we score, we win,’” Cedillo said. “I’ve dreamed about that as a little kid, so it had to happen.”
Walker had no doubt his players would come through in the clutch.
“I went up to all five of them and went ‘guys, you got this? And we had kids that said they were 100 percent sure they got it.’ Then they went in there and buried every one of them.”
Kilgore had its chances in overtime.
Freshman Wanya McIntyre hit the crossbar in the first OT, and in the second overtime session, a monster save by Bridgeport midfielder Eric Aguilar prevented another McIntyre goal.
Following an action-packed first half, the defenses of both Kilgore and Bridgeport stole the show.
“I thought (the defense) played really well,” Walker said. “We struggled a little bit in clearing the ball at times. But at the end of the day … we kept them out of the back of net more times than they did.”
Kilgore raced to a 2-0 lead with goals in the first 13 minutes. McIntyre scored on a header assisted by Jovany Gonzales at 8:54, and Elian Torres’ unassisted goal about four minutes later gave the Bulldogs an two-goal early advantage.
Torres’ three goals in the tournament, which gave him 25 for the season, tied the 4A state record.
Bridgeport (19-4-5) got back in it with 14:06 remaining in the half. Juan Amador was tackled in the box, and Miguel Olmos was true on the proceeding penalty kick, cutting Kilgore’s lead to 2-1.
The Bulls found the equalizer three minutes later when Amador found the net off an assist from Jesus Aguilar.
“We didn’t quite find our groove in the middle of the field, not getting wide like we had been doing, and I think they did good job of disrupting that. They just found a gap or two in our defense this afternoon, and it happens. We were able to bounce back and keep it together, and finish it all the way out.”
All while Garcia watched from crutches on the sideline.
“It was hard,” he said. “Every time we had a chance I jumped up; I didn’t even remember about my leg. The first goal, I jumped up on my leg and didn’t even feel it.
“It was hard watching them, but I told them ‘they don’t want it as bad as we do.’ We were doing this for Sam, and they did it for me as well. I love them so much for that.”
-- Video by Jeff Power, Special to ETSN.fm