DALLAS — After a valiant battle at Wildcat-Ram Stadium on Tuesday, April 4 — after countless saves by Anna goalkeeper Javier Segura, after myriad defensive stops by the Coyotes’ back four — Jeffrey Torres’ 75th-minute goal lifted Life Oak Cliff’s Lions to a 2-1 win in this superb Class 4A regional-quarterfinal pairing. The shot, which ended Anna’s post-season ride, was a rocket from perhaps 15 yards out and it came like a bolt as the game was nervously winding to its conclusion. The Coyotes desperately tried to tie the match again over the final five minutes but the Lions’ defense held.
Life (19-4) advances to face Bridgeport (16-3-5) in the Region I tournament at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletics Complex in Richland Hills on April 7.
Throughout this contest, shot after shot from the Lions had been high, wide, deflected or saved — and for a time it appeared Anna might pull out another squeaker, as it did in last week’s area round. But as the seconds bled off, and it became clear that wouldn’t happen, emotions would run high. The Coyotes were awarded two yellow cards late and sophomore forward Jose Rivas earned a red one with 15 ticks left on the clock, for what we’ll call inappropriate repartee with a referee.
When it was over, Anna fans lined both sides of a sidewalk leading from the field to the locker room and applauded the Coyotes as they walked through.
“We fought,” Anna head coach Matt Ellis said after meeting briefly with his team, then with family. “We had a certain game plan. We were going to sit back and try to defend, and try to hit them on the counter. We got down that goal but then, just like the last game, we responded and countered, found the goal to tie it up. I’d warned them, (Torres) will shoot from anywhere and he’s got a great shot. Five-and-half left and he hits a cannon. … I’m not disappointed with our effort. I’m disappointed for them, because they did just about everything I asked. They worked hard, especially my five seniors: Miguel Jaramillo, Ryan Hoverson, Alexis Martinez, Andre Joyce and Johnny Alvarado. Those five guys, they’ve been here for my three years that I’ve been here. … It’s just hard right now, especially 15 minutes after it’s ended.”
“It was a good game,” Lions head coach Chase Bishop said. “Anna’s a tough team, we knew that coming into it. They were going to be fast and physical. We played them last year, and it was a close game. I’m really proud of these guys and I’m proud of Anna too for putting up a good fight all the way to the end.”
Of the decisive goal, Bishop said, “We’d been firing all night and we were trying to maintain possession, get as many shots as we could. It rolled out to one of our center-mids, (Torres). He got a good look and just hit it and it went in the upper corner. So — good for him, good for us.”
Perhaps Anna’s best chance to answer late came when sophomore defender Jerrod Roberts swept toward Life’s goal from the right with 1:40 remaining, but his shot was gathered in by Lions goalkeeper Alex Lujan.
Life’s Jorge Aguilar opened the night’s scoring just over 10 minutes in with a close-range shot that some thought should have been called a hand ball — a disqualifying touch by Aguilar’s hand — but it stood. Six minutes later, at the 23:37 mark of the first half, Anna sophomore forward Carlos Garrido evened the score with a close-range kick of his own, this one to the left corner of the net.
Hoverson, a veteran Anna defender, was asked about the near-constant pressure he and the Coyotes’ back crew faced.
“It just made me feel better knowing that they were holding their own, doing what they were supposed to do and I didn’t have to worry about them. I trusted the entire game with what they were doing,” he said.
“We were frustrating them,” Ellis noted. “We wanted to set up to frustrate them and not let them get in behind, and force them to try to play long. And we did it. We did what we wanted to do. It’s just, they have some really good players. … The key guys tonight for me were Javier, then Carlos and then … Jose Flores’ work-rate was great outside for us.”
The game marked the end of Segura’s Coyote career as he — a foreign-exchange student — will now return to his home in Madrid, Spain.
“It was a hard game with a lot of pressure,” he said. “All the time shooting, all the time trying to make saves. But I think we did a great job — and we played soccer. … It’s been a great year — new teammates, new people. What can I say? I’m so happy that I met them. It’s sad that this was my last game with them, but I’m so happy and proud of my team.”
“He was amazing,” Ellis said of Segura. “He made so many big saves that kept us in the game. Life’s a good team. Honestly, I think we got out-shot something like 24-4, or some ridiculous number. In the first half, he made some really, really amazing saves to keep us at one (goal) apiece. And he was obviously massive for us even being in it the last five minutes - — to have that chance.”
This chance may have passed for Anna, but there’s no doubt that the 9-12-2 Coyotes, District 5-4A’s third playoff seed, gave highly-regarded, district champ Life Oak Cliff all it wanted.