Soccer Cats close out district with shutout
By MARTIN BRYANT | News-Telegram Correspondent

March 12, 2004 -- PARIS -- The Sulphur Springs soccer team closed out district play the same way they opened it, with a shutout win. The Wildcats beat North Lamar 2-0 Friday to finish district at 11-1.

The victory, however, was bittersweet because Mount Pleasant locked up the District 14-4A championship on Tuesday; the Cats still took care of business and played well.

"It's always good to end district play with a win," head coach Andy Holt said. "Hopefully it will carry over into the post-season."

Following a week layoff, SSHS seemed sluggish in the first half. Still they were able to take advantage the inexperienced Panthers and force some opportunities.

In the 14th minute Wilfredo Larios had a shot saved but the Cats were beginning to find their groove. Layne Ashmore played a chip to Blake Birchfield on a set kick in the 17th minute, but Birchield's shot was cleared out of danger.

Birchfield got another chance in the 19th minute after receiving a through ball from Eric Chenault. After taking possession, Birchfield hit a left-footed shot past the keeper for a 1-0 lead.

In the second half the Cats began to control the game. Larios, Blake Holly and Timo Torres all had excellent opportunities but were unable to score. In the 77th minute, however, Birchfield got another opportunity. He took possession after a shot deflected off of the keeper and scored easily while the goal was unattended to put SSHS ahead 2-0.

Goalkeeper Aaron Ball recorded a shutout while making two saves on the night. Holt also noted the play of Birchfield, Clay McGraw, Miguel Becerra and Nick Kennon.

"We have been falling into our groove lately," Holt said. "We're starting to hit our peak and that is good for the playoffs."

Heading into the playoffs as the number two seed, the boys have put up some impressive numbers. They have scored 32 district goals while allowing only four and have posted seven shutouts in district play. Currently the Cats have shutout four consecutive opponents while winning 10 games in a row.

With district play now over, the Cats can concentrate on winning a playoff game. Only two teams in school history have won a playoff game and no team has won two post-season games in a single season.

"Hopefully we can get our third post-season win in school history," Holt said. "All we can do is keep our focus and go one game at a time."

SSHS will open the playoffs against the Sherman Bearcats next week. Sherman defeated Frisco 5-2 on Friday to claim the third playoff spot in that district.

"Sherman is a big, physical team," Holt said. "We'll definitely be working on that this week as we prepare.

While the game site and time are not determined it will probably be either Thursday or Friday of next week. Possible sites for the game include Wylie, Frisco or possibly Sulphur Springs.

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