The connection between the Cleburne Lady Jacket and Joshua Lady Owl soccer teams goes a little further than just being in the same district.

Cleburne head coach Coby Bird and Joshua boss Jeff Brooks are both graduates of Hardin Simmons University and both played soccer at the school.

Brooks worked as a youth minister near Pleasanton last year, where Bird’s brother Brant is a high school soccer coach.

Finally, current Cleburne assistant coach Doug Ketcham was the head coach of the Lady Owls this season.

Add in the rivalry between the two schools and the 7:30 p.m. District 12-4A opener at Yellow Jacket Stadium should be quite the contest.

“We will be in a tough fight against Joshua,” Coby Bird said. “This is a rivalry and pride for your school and community is always a factor. Both teams will be fired up and ready to play.”

The main difference between the Lady Owls (5-3-2) and the Lady Jackets (1-8-0) is the success the teams have had thus far.

Joshua has picked up a number of wins, including a 13-0 victory over O.D. Wyatt recently. Cleburne’s lone win came against Pleasanton in the fourth annual Brother’s Cup Challenge, 1-0.

“They have closed out games and have a lot of confidence coming in,” Bird said.

For the season, Cleburne has just three goals, one each from Becky Smith, Tiffany Sepulveda and Marie Gilada.

On the other side, Joshua’s Stacy Wright had eight goals going into Friday’s matchup against Wyatt, while teammate Bethany Bennett has six goals and eight assists.

As for the Joshua defense, it is led by freshman goalkeeper Katie Garrett, who has pitched five shutouts thus far.

Cleburne is led on the field by junior Katie Allen, senior Nicole Trate, Kallie Maples, Colin Vallis, Alex Germain and a number of other solid youngsters.

Even though Cleburne has a record of 1-8-0, Bird said his team isn’t disappointed with the mark as much as they are about not being able to put together a complete game.

“We can score and defend well, we just haven’t put together a whole game this year,” he said. “I don’t think the girls are bothered by the record, just frustrated with the lack of success putting the puzzle together. But we are expecting to pull it together for district.”

Junior varsity action kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at Yellow Jacket Stadium.

Daniel Green can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2334, or

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