Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

March 29, 2014

Jackets hold on for 2-1 win over Heights in area playoffs

CROWLEY — It’s surreal how long two minutes can seem to last when you’re a soccer team trying to protect a one-goal lead against a determined opponent in a state playoff game.

Mere days after winning in a penalty-kick shootout, the Cleburne Yellow Jackets again wore down the fingernails of their coach, family and friends by holding off late-charging Fort Worth Arlington Heights in a breathtaking 2-1 victory in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night at Eagle Stadium.

Ronald Cabello and Zane Horton each had goals, but it was goaltender Mario Juarez who earned his “attaboys” with several saves in the late going.

“I asked them why do they have to make everything so dramatic,” said Cleburne Coach Will Walker, only half joking. “It’s definitely something we want to address. We want to look at what happens at the end of games.

“But I’m proud of these guys because they toughed out another one.”

The Yellow Jackets held Heights at bay for the first 77 ½ minutes before Carlos Rodriguez’s goal with 2:51 left made the game interesting.

Heights turned the east goal into a pinball machine with balls fired from every direction in the final moments of action.

Heights’ best chance might have been Heath Jimenez’s shot on goal that Juarez jumped out to knock away in front of a charging offensive player.

Arlington Heights brought its goalie down from the other side in a last-gasp attempt on a free kick with 30 seconds left.

Cleburne survived to fight another day, and the Jackets will face Mansfield Summit in sectionals on Thursday or Friday. Athletics are taking the first part of next week off because of standardized testing.

“I got pretty nervous, but I had confidence in my defense,” said Juarez, a junior. “I knew we were going to make it. We came through with the win.”

Cabello, along with forward peer Saul Ruiz, was questionable heading into the game because of injuries sustained in Tuesday’s victory over Arlington Seguin in bi-district.

Both played, though, and received good marks from the coach.

“We planned to use them sparingly, but they wound up feeling good,” Walker said. “Once they got warm and loose, they felt good.”

Cleburne played with a gusty wind in the first half and against it in the second — a scenario Walker thought might help his team get to passes that were out of reach in the first 40 minutes.

Cabello’s penalty kick with 3:24 left in the first half gave Cleburne a lead heading into halftime.

Horton extended his team’s advantage by picking up a loose ball that found its way through a defender inside the 18 and letting loose a bullet that landed in the top left of the goal.

“We felt good getting that goal just because it made it feel good getting something with the wind,” Walker said.

“Our defense played great,” Juarez said. “We’ve got a great team.”

A time, date and location for the Jackets’ sectional round playoff game against Summit was not set by presstime.

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