ENNIS — After watching Irving erupt for a barrage of early scoring chances, the Midway boys soccer team came back in the second half recharged and ready to erase their one-goal deficit.
But the net is only so big, and the ball was just a little too stubborn.
The Panthers were unable to answer Irving’s 27th-minute goal by Deivi Fuentes despite a series of opportunities late in the game, and they bowed out of the 6A playoffs with a 1-0 loss to the Tigers in Friday’s area game at Ennis High.
Fuentes connected on a cross from Jairo Rodriguez in front of the net and tapped the ball past Midway (12-5-7) goalkeeper Tony Sifuentes, notching the lone tally of the chilly night in the midst of a one-sided first half dominated by the Irving (17-3-3) offense.
The Panthers roared back with a much better second half, finding success attacking in the Tigers’ zone and getting the ball on goal. But it just wouldn’t go in.
“We just couldn’t get one to fall for us,” Midway head coach Patrick Posey said. “But the guys never quit, they never gave up. They played hard until the bitter end. I was proud of these guys, and the effort they put forth this entire year. Not just this game, but the entire year.”
The Panthers appeared to be on their way to a penalty kick in the 71st minute after Richard Maldonado was knocked to the ground inside the box after grabbing an Irving turnover and racing to the net. But the officials remained silent, raising arms in disbelief from Panthers fans and players on the sideline.
Considering Midway ousted its first-round opponent last week with three successful PKs on three attempts, it’s hard to imagine the Panthers wouldn’t have knotted the game had the play been whistled.
Fuentes’ goal capped a build-up of Irving scoring chances in the first half.
It began with an early scare, as German Viera jumped on a turnover in the second minute and broke down the right side of the field to fire a shot that sailed wide to the left of the goal.
Sifuentes got a hand on the next three shots before Fuentes finally buried one.
On the other end, Midway was doing everything it could just to get some kind of chance at an equalizer. The Panthers didn’t register a shot on goal until the 24th minute, and it was handled cleanly by Irving keeper Alexis Osborn.
Midway almost found itself down by two in the 59th minute when Irving successfully moved a corner in front, drawing Sifuentes out of the net. The Tigers managed to redirect to ball near the wide-open left post, but Gage Smith was right there to clear it away from trouble.
Sifuentes picked up another big save two minutes later, freezing Fuentes in his tracks to silence a one-on-one encounter.
“Tony came up huge tonight,” Posey said.
On the ensuing Midway set piece, Ben Matthews’ free kick was headed by a teammate in traffic, but Osburn reached up to catch the arcing ball before a Panthers player was able to tap it home.
Midway continued to chip away at Irving’s defense, but couldn’t convert the equalizing goal.
China Spring girls 3, Hamshire-Fannett 2
Hannah Windwehen scored the go-ahead goal with 7:27 remaining as the Cougars scored three unanswered goals in the final 28 minutes of the game and successfully rallied to secure an area crown.
China Spring trailed, 2-1, with 22 minutes remaining before Lindsey Felps tied the game, erasing the Cougars’ early 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes of action.
Isabella Hudson was the first to break Hamshire-Fannett’s defense, scoring six minutes earlier. China Spring took over from there and will face Jasper in the regional quarterfinal.
Midway girls 1, Lake Highlands 0
Baylor signee Audrey Johnston scored off a rebound from a corner kick in the 60th minute and the Pantherettes once again refused to surrender a goal, punching their ticket to the regional quarterfinals for the first time in Class 6A.
Midway (16-0-4) has allowed just five goals all season, which has propelled it towards an area title and a spot in the Class 6A third round.
“Once again, we had a great effort from everybody,” Pantherettes head coach Bill Sharp said. “We got some good minutes from players coming off the bench tonight.”
Sharp noted the stellar performance of goalkeeper Bailee Russell, who recorded the shutout.
“She did a really nice job, was really aggressive coming off her line,” Sharp said. “Played with a lot of confidence.”
Midway next faces Highland Park, which knocked off top-ranked Garland Sachse, at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Waco ISD Stadium.
Waller boys 1, Waco High 0
The Lions’ bid for their first third-round berth since 2011 fell short in a close match with the Bulldogs in Bryan.
Waco High finishes the season with a 17-5 record.
Other area scores: Hardin-Jefferson girls 7, Gatesville 0; Spring Woods boys 2, Temple 0