Clinched: Soccer cats are in playoffs with 1-0 win
By MARTIN BRYANT | News-Telegram Correspondent

Feb. 27, 2004 -- The last home game of the year is always significant, and it certainly was Friday. The Sulphur Springs boys' soccer team beat Pleasant Grove on Senior Night, 1-0.

While the win was important for the seven seniors, it was also significant in the district standings and playoff picture. Coming into Friday's game the Wildcats had a one-point advantage over the Pleasant Grove Hawks for second place.

SSHS is now ahead by four points and they have clinched a playoff spot with four games left in district play. The victory also meant the Cats swept Pleasant Grove this season.

"This was definitely a nerve-racking game," head coach Andy Holt said. "It's a relief to win this one because of how close the standings are."

The Cats looked a little tired in the first half after traveling to Texas High on Thursday. But while they failed to mount the type of offensive pressure as the night before, SSHS succeeded in shutting down Pleasant Grove.

In the 11th minute the Hawks were called for a foul in the box and the Cats were awarded a penalty kick. Layne Ashmore was chosen to take the kick, but his shot sailed over the goal and the scoring chance was lost.

SSHS didn't get another solid chance until the 39th minute when Spencer Daniel's left-footed shot rolled just wide of the net. The first half ended in a scoreless tie, but the Cats began to apply pressure and control the game in the second period.

While the defense quieted any whisper of a Pleasant Grove goal, the Wildcat offense slowly awoke. Wilfredo Larios put a shot on goal in the 47th minute that was saved by the keeper but the game was starting to turn.

In the 56th minute Larios took possession after a throw-in by John Fox and dribbled toward the goal. Larios' shot from just outside the six-yard box was deflected and then misplayed by the Pleasant Grove goalkeeper before it finally trickled into the net for a 1-0 lead.

"We knew this was a big game because we went to shootout with them last time," John Fox said. "We came ready to play and it's exciting to win one like this."

SSHS shut down the Hawks' offense for the final 20 minutes and preserved the 1-0 shutout. The win improves the Cats' district record to 8-1.

Holt noted the play of the entire defense, which includes Fox, Ashmore, Brody Dyer, Nick Kennon and Jeremy Potter. This group allowed only four shots on goal while Potter recorded three saves and his fifth shutout of the season.

Ashmore, Kennon, Dyer, Blake Birchfield, Jim Grand-Lienard, Clay McGraw and Miguel Becerra played in their final home game for the Cats.

"This was a nice evening for the seniors," Holt said. "It's good to see them win their final game at home."

The Cats continue district play as they travel to Liberty-Eylau on Monday. Game time is set for 6 p.m. Liberty-Eylau forfeited their last meeting with SSHS due to insufficient players.

In other action, the junior varsity preserved its undefeated season by beating Pleasant Grove, 3-0. Melvis Bonilla, Cole Lancaster and Calan Ashmore scored for the JV Cats as they improved to 6-0-2 on the season and 4-0-2 in district play.

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