DENTON — At the end of two full halves and two 10-minute overtime periods on a chilly, blustery night at Denton Braswell High School on Tuesday, April 3, Anna and Fort Worth Castleberry still hadn’t decided this Region I Area-round playoff match. And that called for soccer’s dreaded penalty-kick finish.
You know the one — where each squad gets at least five close-range shots at the opponent’s goalkeeper, and it goes on till a kick is blocked or misses net and the other team made/makes theirs? Some call it “sudden death” and it’s plenty nerve-wracking.
A year ago, these teams played into a second overtime period before the Coyotes triumphed, 3-2, but this current meeting required even more drama. Anna’s penalty-kickers this night — Jerrod Roberts, Jesus Garrido, Gavin Reno and Gustavo Martinez — had matched the Lions kick-for-kick when Castleberry’s fifth attempt went high over the cross bar. That’s when Anna captain Isaac Nino moved into the box with a chance to end it.
As the Coyotes and their fans looked on in rapt anticipation, Nino appeared to faint a kick to his right — sending the Lions’ keeper diving that direction — before cleanly slotting the ball into the left corner for the 8-7 win. Anna players and coaches stormed the field in celebration.
“We were down, 3-2, against the wind and those kids just battled,” Coyotes head coach Matt Ellis said. “We got the equalizer and held on and fought. [Castleberry] is a great team. They’re really solid. They have skill players all over the place. For us to get that result, beat the nerves and still go 5-for-5 in PKs, I couldn’t be more proud of this group right now. … It was another great game between us and Castleberry. Our first goal is to get to the regional tournament. We’re one win away from that.”
Goalkeeper David Joaquin went the all the way for Anna, recording seven saves. All told, save for overtime penalty kicks, Castleberry put up nine shots on goal to the Coyotes’ five.
Carlos Garrido goals gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in the match’s first 10 minutes, with assists from Nino and Kevin Garcia. “This game was really intense,” Garrido said. “[Castleberry] was really good. We were both fighting. We wanted it more and we took it. … The wind affected us a lot. In the first half it really helped us. In the second half we didn’t have a lot of opportunities. Every ball we played the wind would carry it. But we just kept fighting through.”
“I was nervous,” Garrido said of the penalty-kick finale. “That’s the one thing I didn’t want to do – PKs. I just wanted to finish the game with us winning. But no PKs.”
After the Lions stormed back to tied it at 2-2 by halftime then take a 3-2 early second-half lead, Anna’s Jose Flores came up with a big goal to tie it with just under 30 minutes left in regulation. And there the score remained until two OTs were done. “I think that we worked very hard in the game,” Flores said. “Everybody was fighting in the game to see who’s stronger. We never gave up. We kept working and we got it. … We need to help each other and support the team and keep going.”
“It was stressful to watch the PKs,” Flores said. “I was very nervous but I was confident that my players were going to support us. We did it.”
“This was a great win,” Garcia said. “We’ve been playing hard all season. … We kept fighting and we stayed strong. We had to defend a lot and we had to be smart and be tactical. And it paid off.”
Anna will face Midlothian Heritage in the regional quarterfinals on Friday, April 6, 7:30 p.m., at the Birdville Athletic Complex in North Richland Hills.