|Wildcats outshoot Indians|
|By MARTIN BRYANT | News-Telegram Correspondent|
January 24, 2004 -- LONGVIEW -- In their third game in four days, the Sulphur Springs soccer team needed a shootout to beat Jacksonville during second round play of the Mud Dog Classic at Pine Tree High School. Regulation play ended in a scoreless tie and tournament rules required a shootout to decide the contest.
Only five players from each team are selected for the shootout and they are given alternate chances to score one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The Wildcats scored on their first three chances of the shootout while stopping all of the Indians chances for a 3-0 decision.
Offensively, SSHS was unable to take advantage of opportunities in the first half, but the Cats were able to apply more pressure later in the game by utilizing a different formation with three forwards. In the 68th minute, Clay McGraw's shot ricocheted off the post and effectively ended the best scoring chance of the night for either team. Head coach Andy Holt thought his team had a goal.
"I saw the ball bounce to Clay and he took a great shot but it hit square on the post," Holt said. "I couldn't believe we didn't score because it was definitely our best chance of the night."
The Cats' defense played another strong game, recording their second shutout in three games. Jacksonville was held to eight shots on goal while SSHS recorded 10. Goalkeeper Aaron Ball had seven saves in the effort.
Unfortunately, Ball was knocked unconscious during the shootout after being inadvertently kicked in the face following a spectacular save. After receiving some medical attention, all reports say he will be fine.
Timo Torres, Blake Birchfield and Layne Ashmore each scored in the shootout to give the Cats the victory. After Ball was injured, Ashmore played in the goal and successfully forced a bad shot on what would be Jacksonville's final shootout attempt. Coach Holt credited the play of Nick Kennon, Hunter Potts and Ball.
"Nick (Kennon) and Hunter (Potts) had really solid games defensively tonight with few mistakes," Holt said "Aaron (Ball) played great and made an unbelievable save in the shootout."
While the game was mostly clean, a Jacksonville player was issued a yellow card for a hard foul from behind and Blake Holly received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
In other tournament play, Mt. Pleasant defeated Henderson 1-0 and Whitehouse beat Greenville 1-0 on a penalty kick. Mt. Pleasant will meet the winner of Pine Tree and Corsicana with Henderson meeting the loser of that game. Greenville, led by SSHS alumni Kevin Wright, plays Henderson to open the final round of the tournament on Saturday.
The Cats advance to play the Whitehouse Wildcats in their final tournament game before heading into district play on Tuesday. Kickoff against Whitehouse is set for Saturday at 2 p.m.