|District champs: Wildcats clinch 13-4A title with 13th consecutive win|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 19, 2005 - Armed with the chance to clinch the District 13-4A soccer championship Friday night at home, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats grabbed hold and wouldn't let go.
The Wildcats showed why they are the district champions with a dominating 8-0 victory over the North Lamar Panthers, who are fighting for a playoff berth themselves.
Wilfredo Larios scored a pair of goals and added an assist, and Blake Holly knocked in two goals also for the Wildcats, who ran their unbeaten streak to 13 games.
The Cats are currently 19-6 overall, 12-0-1-0 in district play with 38 points. They will be going for the first 20-win season in SSHS history when they finish up the regular season on Monday against Paris, which is currently in third place in the district.
Friday night, there was no dispute about who are the district champions.
"I think we kind of proved tonight why we're No. 1 in the district," said SSHS head coach Andy Holt. "It's a credit to our kids because they're faster, they're stronger, and they work hard in the offseason preparing themselves to be in this situation and to take advantage of it."
With starting forward Jared Ramey out with a dislocated elbow - he may be back on Monday - and starting sweeper John Fox unavailable due to a groin pull, the Wildcats still kept their momentum. North Lamar took just one shot on goal, and that came from 30 yards out, while Sulphur Springs scored on half of their 16 shots.
"I've said all year long that it doesn't matter who we've got out there, we have guys who can come off the bench and play," Holt explained. "Chris Rodgers does a good job for Jared, Graham Northcutt steps in the back and does a great job for John Fox. We expect everyone to play well when they're in the game."
After a scoreless first eight minutes, the Wildcats opened the scoring floodgate at the 31:24 mark when senior Eric Chenault sent a hard cross from the right over the Wilson Jones on the left. Jones then hammered a shot into the top of the net for a 1-0 Wildcat lead.
The Cats had a couple of more chances to score, including a no-look, back kick from Chenault that rolled just wide of the pole, until Larios struck from 20 yards out. He did a stop-and-go move to weave between two defenders before knocking the shot in at the 20-minute mark of the first half.
The Cats added three more goals in the first half - on Chenault's break-away 70 seconds later in which he slid the ball past the goalie who came out to defend; on a Rolando Larios goal off an assist from his brother, Wilfredo; and from Timo Torres, who headed the ball into the net on a rebound from David Miranda - to give SSHS a 5-0 halftime lead.
With Northcutt, Spenser Daniel, Hunter Potts and Miranda stopping any North Lamar attack in the second half, the game was essentially over.
The Cats added three more goals in the final 40 minutes. The first came from Blake Holly on a lead from Torres at the 37:48 mark. That was followed by a Wilfredo Larios goal off an assist from brother Rolando, and the final one was again by Holly, who knocked it into the top left corner of the goal from 15 yards out.
"We're spreading it all around. We're able to switch it from right to left and back up," Holt said. "We played really well tonight. I wasn't sure how well we would play since we were on spring break and I even gave the guys a couple of days off. But, we played well and we're excited about being district champions."
The Cats will likely play their first game of the playoffs next Tuesday. They will receive a first-round bye as district champs.
"We're real confident right now going into the playoffs," he said. "Us being on a 13-game winning streak has a lot to do with our confidence. That's a big key to winning games - having confidence in your teammates."