By Rick Atkinson

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

MELISSA – The Anna Coyotes put on a rally to remember Feb. 10 at Cardinal Stadium in their district-opening soccer tilt with rival Melissa.

Down, 2-1, with just over five minutes left to play, Anna managed to hit the equalizer then the eventual game-winner for a 3-2 win.

“It was huge for the kids to fight back and not quit and just keep going,” Coyotes head coach Matt Ellis said. “The team that had the wind had the better run of play. They had it in the first half. In the second half, we had the wind.”

Anna’s Charlie Morales booted a shot to the back post to tie the match, 2-2, in its 75th minute. “It actually clanked off the inside of the post and looked like it didn’t go in,” Ellis said. “The ref kind of hesitated, but he finally agreed that it did go in. And it did.”

With two minutes left, the Coyote midfielder Jesus Garrido bombed home a 56-yard free kick for the eventual game-winner. Garrido’s shot from near the Anna sideline “skipped funny, right in front of the keeper and went in,” Ellis said. “It was a crazy ending, that’s for sure.”

“We played a very good first half - and Anna played a very good second half,” Cards head coach Kelley Pitzer said. “I have the upmost respect for the way Matt coaches kids up to come back in the second half. They did a good job.”

“I don’t have any true negatives. We failed to keep our shape in the second half. And it ended up costing us the game. It’s unfortunate but we get to face them again. … Hopefully, we can rectify that in the upcoming district matches and just keep moving forward.”

Pitzer noted that he was without five players due to injury, illness or school trip, including three starters. “You get to play with what you have,” he said.

Two first-period goals by Eric Ramirez had the Cards in good shape, up 2-0 with six minutes to go in first period. Ramirez’ first goal, in the match’s 11th minute, was assisted by Jonathan Contreras. His second, with six minutes left in the half, came off a Jonathan Ollila assist.

“Eric played really, really well,” Pitzer said. “I felt like he and [Aidan] Pintor in the middle really stepped up.”

Coyote Mason Pratt, with a Meny Huete assist, scored just before halftime to make it 2-1, Melissa – and there the score remained until the contest’s final five minutes.