Lufkin Boys Continue Title Defense After Edging Waxahachie Through Seven Rounds Of Penalty Kicks
TYLER -- Penalty kicks don't really have any correlation to the game played on the field. Losing in penalty kicks is the greatest tragedy in soccer.
Fortunately for Lufkin, the defending Class 5A champions, there was no tragic ending Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Panthers defeated Waxahachie 5-4 in seven rounds of penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime to survive the area round.
"That's what I was just telling them," Lufkin head coach Russell Shaw said immediately after the victory. "No one deserved to lose this game. They played excellent. What's funny about penalty kicks is our best guys at the front missed. It just shows a good quality depth. We had other guys ready to come in.
"It's a lot of pressure. Penalty kicks, I don't think anyone likes. But it is a part of it. Our goalkeeper was huge."
Jose Cuc earned the elongated win in net. He saved three shots in penalty kicks to bail the Panthers out of an early 1-0 hole through the first two rounds.
Cuc only allowed one goal in game play. A high-flying shot from 30 yards out off the foot of Waxahachie's Jordy Ortiz sailed over his head to give the opposing a 2-1 lead at the 23:18 mark of the second half.
It was as close to a defenseless goal as there is.
The Panthers ultimately sent the game into overtime 14 minutes later when Hillario Villegas came up with a rebound off of Alexis Roque's originating shot from 20 yards.
Roque hit the crossbar on a free kick with 1:35 left in regulation. That was the closest either team got to scoring in game play after Lufkin tied the score.
Waxahachie's first tally was an own goal. Josh Duarte slid into the goal area in an attempt to keep the ball moving away from Cuc and his pass bounced off a Lufkin sweeper into the net.
The own goal evened the score, 1-1, with 10:52 left in the first half.
Sammy Vlilegas gave Lufkin a fairly short-lived, 1-0 lead by stealing the ball off a Waxahachie defender and breaking clean toward the net in the 20th minute.
Neither team mustered much in the two 10-minute halves of non-sudden death overtime. Lufkin put together three shots to Waxahachie's zero through the extra 20 minutes to increase its overall shooting advantage of 16-8 in regulation, but it never enjoyed a realistic scoring chance.
"It was crazy," Cuc said. "Intense. I can't really explain it, but it was just an intense game. They fought hard. We fought harder. We came out stronger. It means a lot to us to make our coaches proud. All of us want to get back to state and win another ring."
Penalty kicks are scheduled for five rounds. The team that records the most goals through the stretch wins.
The scenario is similar to baseball innings with a top and a bottom half. A team gets one shot in each round and its goalkeeper defends the opposing team’s shot.
If the two sides are tied through five rounds, single extra rounds are added until one team finishes with a lead.
Neither team scored in the first round of penalty kicks, but Waxahachie took its 1-0 advantage by capitalizing on a second straight missed Panthers shot.
Rodrigo Molina began to turn the tide for the Pack in the third round with a score followed by Cuc's second save in the situation for a 1-1 score.
Kacy Bennett and Dorian Bravo knocked in Lufkin's next two attempts to force Waxahachie into pressure situations. Rolando Nieto and Ortiz came up with answers to extend the penalty kicks situation into its own overtime circumstance.
Jared Vasquez scored in the sixth round to set up Cuc with an opportunity to win the game with a save. Gamaliel Chavez answered the call for Waxahachie to push the tiebreaker onward.
Gustavo Garcia scored a fifth straight goal for Lufkin. Cuc got the team out by batting down a straight forward Waxahachie shot toward him.
"We teach them to read the kick," Shaw said. "We ask them just to make one save because we think one save will be enough. He had three."
The win propelled Lufkin into the regional quarterfinals for a date with Mansfield Lake Ridge.
Lake Ridge defeated John Tyler in the final minutes of its area round game Friday.
A time, date and location between the Panthers and Lake Ridge had not been settled immediately after the Panthers' game, but Shaw thought a Tuesday match at Rose Stadium made sense.
Lufkin and Lake Ridge will announce their meeting at some point this weekend.
"It feels wonderful," Shaw said. "That's nine in a row, playoff wise. These Lufkin kids just will not quit. I think it shows. There's no easy games and somehow we just keep finding a way."