As Granbury boys head soccer coach Doug Kissinger knows from experience, it’s how a team is playing NOW that counts most.
The Granbury Pirates, the fourth seed from District 15-4A, proved that again Tuesday night as they defeated 16-4A champion Mansfield Lake Ridge 2-0 in a bidistrict match at Pirate Stadium.
“Definitely, without a doubt it was our best game of the year,” said Kissinger, who knows a thing or two about great games, having played on the Pirates’ 1999 4A state championship team.
“Lake Ridge has a great team with quick players, and we met the challenge.”
Kissinger said he felt it might be the Pirates’ night before the game got under way – days before, in fact.
“We’ve been waiting for that one game where luck went our way, and it started with us winning the flip,” he said.
The game was originally to be played in Joshua, but complications there changed it to a home-and-home coin flip, and the Pirates won.
The victory advanced the Pirates (8-6-7) to the area round, where they were playing another perennial power like themselves, North Side (20-5-1), in Weatherford Friday night.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the game’s seventh minute when Jacob Dyson took an assist from Freddy Espinoza. From there, they frustrated Lake Ridge (18-4-2) at every turn with stifling defense.
“I trusted my teammate to play me the right ball, and he did,” said Dyson. “I’m glad we got it early. It made them change their strategy.”
For most of the game it appeared as Dyson’s goal would be the only score. Both teams came into the game with some of the top defenses in the area, and they displayed it again.
“I trust our defense a lot, especially our center backs,” said Dyson.
“This was by far the most nervous I’ve been. We played like we should have played all year.”
With 2:46 left, Bryce Gentry added a security goal off an assist from Fernando Aguado. It virtually sealed Lake Ridge’s doom.
“No words can describe how I felt when that goal went in,” said Gentry. “I didn’t see an opening at first. I just worked through the littlest opening and made the best of it.
“I felt like I was in heaven when I saw it go in.”
Lake Ridge had some great opportunities to score, but each time the Granbury defense rose to the occasion.
Free kicks, which had been a problem for the Pirates all season, were all turned away. Same with corner kicks, including one that bounced off several players from both teams just inches from the goal before being cleared out.
“We had great intensity the whole night,” said Kissinger.
“The first corner kick scared me the most. I looked down and looked up. It looked like they were going to have a couple guys free, but we got it out of there, and the rest of the night we were great.
“Somebody (a player on the Pirates) had to have told the defense to execute and move. You could tell the difference after that.”
Goalkeeper Thomas Weaver made several saves of would-be goals as well.
“I felt confident with Thomas and his size in there, and he came through,” said Kissinger. “It was a tough decision because I have two good goalkeepers, and normally I play them both.
“Who knows, Friday (last night) it may be Jesus (Valadez).”
The Pirates had won five consecutive district championships before this season. However, they were inconsistent for much of the season before finding some consistency of late.
“I feel like we are starting to see it come together,” said Kissinger. “We have the talent. We just have to gel as a team, and we saw that tonight.
“It’s not about you, it’s how can I set up a teammate, or back up the defense?”
Kissinger has seen the same scenario from the other side. Two seasons ago the Pirates had what many thought to be one of the best teams in the program’s history, only to get upset by Burleson in bidistrict.
“I know that feeling they have,” said Kissinger, nodding to the Lake Ridge sideline. “Year before last we had a great ballclub, good chemistry, and we got knocked out.
“It’s about who’s going to finish, and tonight we finished.”
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Class 4A Boys Bidistrict Soccer
Mansfield Lake Ridge 0 0 – 0
Granbury 1 1 – 2
Granbury goals (assists) – Jacob Dyson (Freddy Espinoza), Bryce Gentry (Fernando Aguado).
Granbury goalkeeper – Thomas Weaver.
Records – Granbury 8-6-7, Lake Ridge 18-4-2.