The Athens Review
For the third straight year, the Athens Hornets were ousted from the Class 4A playoffs by the Kilgore Bulldogs, at Whitehouse High School.
The Bulldogs won, 3-0, and sealed the win in the second half with two goals less than five minutes apart.
Head coach Jonathan Ryal’s Hornets’ end the season with a record of 8-12-5, while Whitehouse improves to 19-3-4 overall.
Ryal said the season was a grind for the team but he is proud with how it all played out.
“It was a grind. When we won the Palestine tournament, everything was great and I thought we had a chance to do some big things,” Ryal said. “When we hit the Marshall tournament and the wheels came off, I think that hurt us going into district.”
This was the third straight year Athens has faced Kilgore in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We keep getting Kilgore and that is our own fault,” Ryal said. “We have to find a way to quit coming in fourth place. That is pretty much the only way you are going to avoid Kilgore.”
He said the only way they can avoid facing Kilgore next year is to take care of business in their final season of Class 4A soccer.
UIL officials have announced a 3A classification during the 2014-2015 school year.
“We have to figure out how to pass one of the 4A teams in John Tyler, Whitehouse or Lindale and it is not going to be easy,” Ryal said. “We usually beat one or two of them but it is going to take more than that. We have to take care of our business and get past one of the big three next year.”
With 15:46 remaining in the first half, Kilgore’s Alexis Torres blasted a shot past Athens’ goalie Johnny Gonzalez. The goal was one of three assists from Jose Rico.
In the second half, Kilgore continued their offensive pressure as Torres scored his second goal of the game.
With 33:36 remaining on the clock, Torres found a opening in the Athens defense and placed a shot into the left post past a diving Gonzalez for the 2-0 lead.
“If Kilgore did not get the restart that scored the second goal, it would have been a whole different ball game,” Ryal said. “It was a bang, bang call and I did not agree with the call but you have to deal with the hand you are dealt.”
Less than five minutes later, Kilgore’s Christian Peralez blasted another shot past Gonzalez off a perfectly placed ball from Rico for the 3-0 lead.
With 18:12 remaining in the game, Athens senior defender Kody Ingham was called for a yellow card on Kilgore’s Benito Bustos inside of the penalty box.
On the penalty kick, Gonzalez was in the perfect stop as Bustos blasted the shot straight on for the save.
“I thought Kody ran in front of the kid and he stepped on his foot. I honestly don’t think he did that intentionally,” Ryal said. “Johnny was able to stop the PK and Johnny from his first game until now has grown leaps and bounds. I am so proud of him and he stepped up and could have mailed it in on the PK but he stepped up and stopped it.”
Athens had two chances late to make it interesting as Enrique Rodriguez had a restart from 34 yards out that bended straight towards junior goalie J.D. Perales.
The second opportunity came on a header by Carlos Murrillo but the shot went wide of the goal.
Ryal said he was happy with how the Hornets got into the playoffs.
“I am proud of the way that we did it because we won the last three games to get in the playoffs,” Ryal said. “They stepped up, manned up and did it.