Palestine Outlasts Terrell to Claim Regional Championship
LONGVIEW -- Two goals is on the low side for Palestine.
It is the fewest number the Wildcats have scored all playoffs, but it didn't matter. It was all they needed on Saturday to take out Terrell, winning 2-0 to advance to the 4A state tournament.
"We're extremely excited, but we're not totally satisfied yet," coach John Absalom said. "Once again, we got beat by Kilgore in the playoffs last year and we basically made a commitment to get to Georgetown and bring back a title. Today we played well. I don't think we played as good as we can. We're gonna have to step it up a little bit. But I'm very proud of my guys."
It is the third regional championship in school history, with the other two coming in 2007 and 2016.
Palestine didn't have the offensive firepower it normally does in part because of Terrell. The Tigers were aggressive on defense, double and triple-teaming the Wildcats' best players and forcing them to look elsewhere.
Most notably, Terrell goalie Justin Valdez finished with 10 saves. He left the game with 14 minutes left after suffering an inadvertent kick when trying to save a goal.
"It affects (our offense) a lot," Absalom said. "Javier (Leonor)'s gotta learn to pass the ball. He's used to holding onto it. He's kind of reverting back to what he did at the beginning of the year. He'd hold and try to fight guys. I got him out of that passing and moving. He can do it. Sometimes he feels like he has to carry the load being one of the star players, but he'll come around."
Tony Guzman scored the first goal off an assists from Leonor with 27:49 in the first half. But Palestine remained scoreless after that until the 14-minute mark of the second half, when Valdez went down.
Leonor attempted a shot from about 25 yards out that hit the top of the goal and bounced down. Malachi Musil noticed and saw his opportunity, kicking the ball through while Valdez lay on the ground.
Palestine joins Progreso, Madisonville and San Elizario in the state tournament. The Wildcats will play one of those three teams, to be announced later, on Wednesday.