ANNA – With a 2-0 mark in District 9-4A, Anna’s Coyotes took a brief respite from league play on Feb. 18 to entertain a visiting non-district foe, Dallas Uplift Heights. Nearly as inhospitable as the weather – 37 degrees with a stout north wind – the Coyotes rolled to a 5-0 win behind three first-half goals from senior Gavin Reno. And after the break, Diego Banda and John Franco added finishing touches with a goal apiece.
Anna got off 10 shots-on-goal while Uplift Height’s Condors managed three. Shots overall were one-sided as well, at 20-8. David Joaquin manned the Coyotes’ net in the first half, posting a save, and Phillip Henson came on in the second and saved two.
Reno’s goals all came in the final 15 minutes the first half and each one highlighted his exceptional speed. “I don’t know if I’ve had a first-half hat trick since I’ve been here,” fifth-year Anna head coach Matt Ellis said. “He had a great game. His off-the-ball movement was great, making runs to get in behind. … His speed is always going to be hard to deal with for other teams. And when he adds movement on top of that, it’s a solid outing for him.”
Said Reno, “I was just running as fast as I can, like I’m used to - sprinting as hard as I can on every play. And my teammates just had to find me.” As for the Condors, Reno noted, “They can hold the ball well. But attacking was not their suit for tonight. They defended pretty well, but we just had the best of them.”
More Ellis: “Defensively, I thought we were solid overall. But [senior] Juan Velazquez out on the left back, he probably had his best game of the season - real consistent, no mistakes. And in the middle we locked the game down pretty solid. Everybody got 30 minutes or so tonight. It was just a good all-around team effort.”
Ellis said he hadn’t much to go in facing Uplift, a Dallas charter school. “Honestly, I knew nothing coming in. I’d seen that they beat Sunnyvale, 2-1. And I saw them warming up. They had decent skill and touch on the ball.”
For the match’s first 25 minutes, the teams chipped back and forth with neither able to get the upper hand. Then, as Anna fans were perhaps getting anxious - and frozen - Reno broke free and struck straight-on, with an assist from Isaac Nino. His second goal came with under 11 minutes left in the first half, with Morales assisting.
Then 28 seconds before the break, Reno took a pass from Banda and fired from the right side into the far-left corner for net for goal No. 3.
Bando’s score came in the second half’s first four minutes, off another Nino assist, and Franco punched his in with under three minutes left to play, with Reno getting the assist.
Six district games remain for Anna starting with Bonham at home on Feb. 23.