Mineral Wells Index
By TONY EIERDAM
FORT WORTH – All sports lay claim to be “a game of inches,” and Tuesday night’s Class 4A, bi-district soccer playoff match between the Mineral Wells Rams and Birdville Hawks could make that claim.
In a 1-0 Birdville win Tuesday night at Boswell’s Pioneer Stadium, the Hawks’ goal was scored up high and missed the outstretched hands of Rams’ goalkeeper Caleb Bandy by inches, and three late Mineral Wells scoring attempts missed the mark by an inch, with one attempt actually hitting the goal post.
But the game was won by the Hawks in the mid field. Birdville’s precise play in the middle of the field – with crisp, sure passing and very few ball-handling mistakes – kept the ball away from the high-scoring MWHS forwards for most of the match.
In fact, Bandy outplayed his Birdville counterpart. The athletic senior kept the Rams in the match by constantly making diving saves on the ground or using his 6-3 frame to stab balls headed for the upper reaches of the net.
But as time expired, the Rams’ final chance never made it to the ‘keeper as Birdville survived a one-goal match and will advance to the area playoffs to face Burkburnett.
“This (game of inches) is what happens in soccer,” Rams head coach Rolando Borjon said. “Our kids worked hard the entire 80 minutes, but unfortunately they finished a scoring chance and came out on top.
“But our group worked hard all year long, and I have nothing negative to say. These kids left everything they had on the field. They played their hearts out.”
Borjon said Birdville’s mid field play not only set the pace for the Hawks offensively, but also helped defensively.
“Birdville knew we are strong up top (forwards) with Gilbert (Castorena) and Omar (Hernandez), and their strategy was to keep possession as much as they could so we would have fewer offensive chances,” Borjon said. “Birdville executed its game plan well, and they are a very good team.”
The game was a scoreless tie at the half, but Birdville could have very easily been up 3-0.
Birdville tested Bandy early with three good scoring opportunities within a span of four minutes.
The first came at the 27:45 mark of the first half when Bandy made a pair of saves on shots form the box, the second on a rebound. Bandy used his height to thwart another scoring chance when he jumped and batted away a shot headed to the top shelf. The ball deflected off Bandy’s outstretched hand just inches over the cross bar.
Bandy came up with another brilliant save when he stopped a rebound off a corner kick. Bandy made one more diving save with 10:35 left in the first 40 minutes.
The Rams, frustrated because Birdville kept play in the middle with deft ball handling and pinpoint passing, had very few if any scoring chances in the first half.
At the beginning of the second half, Bandy came through again, stopping a shot from about seven feet out.
However, six minutes later at the 26:40 mark, Birdville forward Bryan Callejas sent a rising shot from about 25-30 yards out toward the Mineral Wells’ goal, but Bandy just missed tipping the shot as it cradled underneath the cross bar and into the net on the right side as the Hawks took a 1-0 lead.
Now with a high sense of urgency, the Rams put on offensive pressure and had three good scoring chances.
With 21:28 left to play, Roy Gomez sent a shot toward the upper-right corner of the net, but Birdville goalkeeper John McGuffin jumped up to deflect the ball an inch over the cross bar.
Six minutes later, Castorena appeared to have beaten the goalie with a shot from 20 yards out, but the ball hit the goal post and landed out of bounds.
A third good scoring chance happened with 11:05 left to play.
The Rams sent a corner kick to the middle of the Birdville net where McGuffin misplayed the ball.
The ball was loose in the box for an instant, but a Birdville defender booted the ball down field and away from trouble.
Bandy cane up with another diving save, and in the final minute the Rams had one last charge down the field but could not come up with a shot on goal as Birdville survived for a 1-0 win.
Borjon will lose 11 seniors including Castorena, Serjio Castillo, Bandy, Roy Gomez, Gerardo Moya, Dylan Pruitt, Bryan Flores, Adan Ortiz, Emiliano Silva, Eric Parker and Jose Garcia.
“I really feel for the seniors,” Borjon said. “I came here three years ago when they were sophomores, and they bought into the program. It will be hard to replace these seniors, especially when you consider there are 11 of them.
“But what is more important than soccer is that these seniors go on to be successful in life and good citizens.”