Deer Park captures soccer bi-district title in overtime thriller
Soccer has never been called a game of inches, but apparently that was the difference in sending Deer Park’s varsity boys soccer team to the second round of the 6A state playoffs.
Willy Lopez was credited with the deciding goal in overtime when the Pasadena Memorial goalie stopped the ball but his outstretched arms allowed the ball to cross the plain of the goal by inches, handing Deer Park a 2-1 bi-district triumph at Abshier Stadium Thursday night.
The score came with just 1:58 remaining in a second 10-minute overtime and it sent head coach Jerry Hurtado and the Deer sidelines into pandemonium.
“I got between two defenders and put my all into it. It’s the only way it could end,” Lopez said.
“The referee said he saw this much white,” said Memorial head coach Danny Simmons, holding his thumb and forefinger about a quarter of an inch apart.
It took a long, long time to snap the 1-1 deadlock. Memorial scored with 3:43 remaining in the first half and that’s how the score stood for the next 62 minutes.
“21-6A and 22-6A are the real deal. It’s always a game, it’s always a battle. I have all the respect in the world for Memorial. They played extremely well. It was a great game by both teams,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado, who received the traditional Gatorade bath after the match, was ecstatic for his players because of their schedule this week.
Due to the ITC tank farm fire, the call for shelter in place and no school for much of last week, Deer Park was forced to play its last two district games on Monday and Tuesday, followed by Thursday’s start to the playoffs.
“Because of what happened over there, we had to play three games in a week. They were cramping a bit but they gutted it out into overtime. I’m just so proud of the boys right now,” Hurtado said. “It was one of those scenarios where you have an excuse to lose but I didn’t want them to have an excuse to lose. I was so proud of them for gutting that thing out.”
Prior to the winning goal, Herson Sandoval had a shot on goal during the second overtime, while Memorial’s Shukri Farias attempted a header off a throw-in that was deflected at the net. The Mavs also had a corner kick that led to another header that was caught.
“We hadn’t been past the first round. It’s just a great feeling. It was an intense game. Memorial’s a great team. It’s just a great feeling,” Sandoval said.
In the first OT, Deer Park had a goal called back because of an offsides penalty. Edin Garcia tried to find the net from 25 yards out with a high fly ball, but Memorial goalie Johnathan Sanchez caught the ball.
There were seven yellow cards assessed as the referees tried to keep a lid on the emotions.
Lopez also received credit for scoring Deer Park’s first goal at the 21:14 mark of the first half. That one was a no-doubter as he beat the Memorial goalie who was rushing out to get the ball.
But Memorial created the 1-1 tie on an Oscar Aguirre goal.
“Both teams played a hell of a game. It’s my last year and probably my last game. I gave it my all. I wish I could have given more,” said Aguirre, who received one of Memorial’s three yellow cards.