BELTON – Once David McCarty’s potential tying goal bounced off the crossbar, Pablo Negrete shot out of the net and jumped high into the air.
Waco High’s senior goalkeeper had made some mistakes that allowed Connally to tie the game at two in a two minute span nearly halfway into the second half.
But when his teammates needed him, he elevated his play with monster save after monster save as Waco High defeated Pflugerville Connally 4-3 in penalty kicks in a match that was knotted 2-2 following two overtime periods Friday night in the 5A Region 3 Area playoffs in Belton.
“He’s a senior, been with us for three years,” Waco High coach Kris Kahler said. “I thought that he won it when it mattered which was during penalty kicks. Really nice for this to turn out this way.”
Since making it all the way to the regional quarterfinals in 2013, the Waco High soccer team hasn’t been able to advance past the area round the past three years.
Until Friday night.
“Whenever we play on the field, we play with a lot of heart,” Adolfo Rodriguez said.
Against Connally, that heart wasn’t just about getting the win to advance to the next round in the playoffs.
It was for one Lion in specific – Cesar Solano – whose grandmother passed away Friday morning.
“Everybody works their butt off,” Negrete said. “I could not ask for a better team.”
The Lions got on the board first in the 21st minute.
Rodriguez kicked it toward the goal, but Connally’s Mauricio Gonzalez was there the stop it.
However, the ball bounced off Gonzalez’s ankle and into the net for the own goal.
Waco High added to its lead less than four minutes into the second half as Raul Toribio fought through a couple of Cougars to get the edge and find the back of the net.
“I just saw myself and the goal,” Toribio said. “I really didn’t think about the other guys. I just wanted the goal. I did what I needed to to get the ball in the back of the net.”
Connally got on the board in the 54th minute with a goal by Anthony Tejada off a free kick.
Two minutes later with Waco High goalkeeper Pablo Negrete wide of the goal trying to save a prior shot, Connally’s Kevin Ramirez easily found the back of the net for the equalizer.
Neither team scored again in regulation as the game went to overtime.
Or in the first overtime period.
Connally had a great look in front of the goal, but Negrete swatted it away.
Negrete came up with another big time save in the second overtime period as he jumped up to grab the ball out of the air with Cougars all around him.
And then Negrete made a third as he ran out to meet a Connally player attacking the goal and stripped the ball from him.
Negrete didn’t take any of the credit for himself. Instead, he gave it all to his teammates in front of him.
“I wouldn’t trade them for the world,” Negrete said. “They fought to the last minute, the last seconds.”
With the game tied at two, Rodriguez, Juan Arroyo and Jose Escobedo each made their penalty kicks which gave Waco High a 3-2 advantage over Connally.
After Toribio missed his, Gustavo Jacinto found the back of the net to tie things back up for Connally.
Then it all came down to the Lions’ Jonathan Gonzalez. And he made his to give Waco High the edge it needed for victory.
“These guys know that after every single playoff game there’s going to be a winner ‘and a loser,” Kahler said. “Today we did not want to be the loser. … I’m really proud of how bad we fought and how bad we wanted it.”