By staving off an old rival Friday night, the Granbury Pirates moved closer to yet another district soccer championship.
That would be five in a row, should they not collapse in their final two games at Alvarado and Cleburne.
The Pirates (15-3-5 overall) improved to 7-0-1 in District 15-4A with a 2-1 win over visiting Stephenville. A win over Alvarado Saturday would clinch the title outright as Cleburne is 5-1-2 and needs the Pirates to lose twice to pass them in the standings.
Even if Alvarado ties the Pirates, Granbury has a commanding lead in goal differential, so they’d likely win a tiebreaker against Cleburne.
“We’re going into the playoffs, and we want to be district champions, but we want success in the playoffs,” said Pirate coach Doug Kissinger.
The Pirates have been upset in bidistrict three of the past four seasons after having gone nearly two decades without a bidistrict loss.
In Kissinger’s first year at the helm they advanced three rounds deep in the postseason in 2011.
One of the things that Kissinger was counting on for more success in the postseason this year is a tougher district slate. Stephenville (5-2-1 in district) has certainly proved to be a formidable foe, handing the Pirates their only league blemish, 1-1, when the teams met in Stephenville in the first round of district.
The Yellowjackets also tied the Pirates 2-2 in a tournament earlier in the season.
The Pirates jumped on the Jackets before the game was barely under way Friday as Freddy Espinoza scored off of an assist from Marco Ramirez just a minute and a half into the contest.
In a similar scenario to start the second half, Ramirez took an assist from Shaun Gomez for a goal just two and a half minutes deep.
“I think we caught them sleeping both times,” said Kissinger.
Stephenville cut the deficit in half with 11 minutes to play, and had some more scoring chances – as did the Pirates.
“We had to put defensive pressure on them. That allowed our defense to clear the ball,” said Kissinger.
“Stephenville’s main objective was to kick the ball as far as they could upfield and bump us out of the way.
“They have a kid who can throw the ball 75 yards. It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck because you’re never sure what’s going to happen. You’re always biting your nails.”
The Pirates are off until Saturday when they have a noon contest at Alvarado. Kissinger said the break is welcome.
“Definitely so. We allow the guys to relax a little bit before our last two games, come back and get ready for the playoffs,” he said.
Stephenville 2, Granbury 0
The Lady Pirates were officially eliminated from postseason contention with Friday’s road loss.
The game was tied 0-0 at the half.
“We can’t catch Cleburne or Stephenville now. We have two games left and have to finish strong,” said Lady Pirate coach David Winkleman.
The Lady Pirates (7-14-2 overall) fell to 1-6-1 in District 15-4A. They had won district the past two seasons, followed by advancing four rounds and three rounds in the postseason.
“Injuries and one-goal games hurt us,” said Winkleman. “We couldn’t score and couldn’t keep them from scoring one.”
The Lady Pirates have a home game against Alvarado Saturday and finish the season at home against Cleburne Tuesday.
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Stephenville 0 1 – 1
Granbury 1 1 – 2
Granbury goals (assists) – Freddy Espinoza (Marco Ramirez), Ramirez (Shaun Gomez).
Granbury record – 15-3-5, 7-0-1 in 15-4A.
Granbury 0 0 – 0
Stephenville 0 2 – 2
Granbury record – 7-14-2, 1-6-1 in 15-4A.