THE COLONY – After 40 minutes of intense battle and two 10-minute overtime periods on Thursday, Anna senior Isaac Nino booted home the game-winning penalty kick for a stirring Class 4A Region 2 bi-district playoff victory over Faith Family Academy at The Colony High School. Nino, whose high hard kick down the middle capped the Coyotes’ thrilling 5-3 PK win, was promptly mobbed by his joyous teammates as the result sunk in for both sides.
Just as crucial for Anna were the team’s previous PKs by Jerrod Roberts, Gavin Reno, Jesus Garrido and Gustavo Martinez – as well as goalkeeper David Joaquin’s huge save on the Eagles’ third try which opened the door for victory.
Still knotted, 0-0, after the two OTs meant going to the dreaded penalty-kick phase, when things would be decided in dramatic, flash-of-an-eye fashion. For the uninitiated, this method of reaching an outcome involves each team sending five players out for alternating kicks - centered on the net from 12 yards out against a defenseless goalkeeper. If still tied after these 10 kicks, five more players are chosen and the process is repeated and so on until, one imagines, neither team has a player who can stand up.
Fortunately, the Coyotes got it done in one session.
“It was difficult,” Joaquin said. “The feeling is so amazing. Everything worked.”
Said Nino, “The amount of fans we have and the support, it’s crazy to come up to this ending. [Faith Family] was very good. And we played so good throughout. We had adversity. Our goalie was a monster – a monster.” As for his match-winning boot, Nino said, “I was a little nervous but I know that when I’m in the office I’ve got to get to work.”
Nino also knocked in the winning PK in Anna’s 2018 area-round playoff win over Fort Worth Castleberry. “Just like last year,” he said. “Walk up there with no pressure and finish through.”
“We knew it was not going to be easy,” Martinez said. “This week we did practice PKs - the worst-case scenario: PKs. We all came out really confident knowing we had a high chance of making it. As Isaac Nino said, David Joaquin had a monster save. It gave us a lot more momentum.”
The Coyotes had an overwhelming 24-5 shot-total edge during regulation and a 13-3 advantage in shots-on-goal, but couldn’t get one to go. This may have been District 9-4A champion Anna versus the fourth seed out of 10-4A, but Coyotes head coach Matt Ellis said he expected a difficult match. “I’ve watched them play a couple of times and they’re a solid team. They have some solid players. We knew it was going to be a challenge and it was. We had a ton of chances and just couldn’t find the back of the net. … I told them, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Chances will keep coming and we’ll put them away at some point.”
As the second overtime period ended and team captains met again at midfield, fired-up Anna students scrambled to the railing at the south end of the stands for a good view of the match’s final chapter. Roberts drove the Coyotes’ first kick just under the crossbar for a goal. Reno and Garrido followed, alternating with Eagle kickers, for a 3-2 Anna edge. That’s where the Coyotes took separation: Joaquin stopped Faith Family’s next shot, guessing correctly with a dive to his left, then Martinez - in his only appearance in the match - sent his kick to the left corner for a key 4-2 advantage. Martinez exited the stage mimicking Ezekiel Elliott’s “feed me” move as Anna fans cheered wildly. Faith Family made their next kick but it mattered little as Nino soon ended the evening’s festivities.
Joaquin went the whole way in-net, with three other saves in regulation. The Eagles’ lanky, 6-3 goalie had 13 saves but did not face the penalty kicks, giving way to another keeper.
Anna is slated to meet Midlothian Heritage in the area round at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Dragon Stadium