Soccer Cats beat PG in shootout action

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Mar. 3, 2006 - TEXARKANA - Sulphur Springs didn't come out with the three points they were hoping for against Pleasant Grove on Friday, but they got the next best thing.

The Soccer Cats beat Pleasant Grove 2-0 in a shootout to pick up two valuable points and move into third place in the District 16-4A standings, pending the outcome of the Paris/Mount Pleasant match-up.

The Wildcats received a fantastic game in goal from Mario Arellano, whose diving block of a 12-yard penalty kick by PG's best offensive player, Austin McCown, in the first half might have saved the SSHS season.

"Mario made a couple of key saves tonight. That guy is playing great this year," said SSHS head coach Andy Holt. "We were very worried about that position after Jeremy Potter filled it for three years and we had to put a new guy in. Mario has filled it well - stopping that PK was key for us. He made two great saves to keep us in this game."

Arellano finished the game with six saves, then senior Jon Holt was put in the net for the shootout, and he caught two Hawks' shots, then got enough of a touch on the final PG shooter to misdirect the ball outside the right post.

In the shootout, SSHS senior Graham Northcutt got the PG goalie to bite on a fake, then slipped the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead. As it turned out, that was all SSHS would need but not all it would get. Cole Lancaster added the insurance goal when he popped a shot over the head of the keeper for a 2-0 advantage.

In a game that was dominated offensively by the Wildcats, it was a relief for Coach Holt to finally get some balls in the net.

"We definitely had the possession of the ball most of the game," Holt explained. "That's the way Pleasant Grove plays - they are more defensive-minded and try to counter.

"We had chances and chances, but we just didn't put the ball away."

Three times in regulation, the Wildcats had one-on-one opportunities against the PG keeper, but misfired on two of them and had the keeper make one save.

Sulphur Springs took 20 shots on goal, compared to 10 for the Hawks, but the Wildcats received no help at all from the official. He issued three yellow cards to the Wildcats (none to Pleasant Grove), and sweeper Tate Ramirez was given a soft red with 17 seconds left in the first half on a call that stunned the SSHS fans.

Three times, Wildcats who had offensive possession of the ball were knocked down in the 18-yard box, but the Wildcats were not awarded penalty kicks on any of the plays.

Still, Sulphur Springs had its chances.

Rolando Larios dazzled the crowd with his footwork and had seven shots on goal and three other would-be assists that put players within striking distance, but the Wildcats just couldn't get the shot they needed.

Defensively, Ramirez had a strong first half, then the Wildcats had to shuffle the back line for the second half with Northcutt, Jesus Torres and Jon Holt.

The two points the Wildcats earned gives them 18 for the season, one point ahead of Paris, who played district-leading Mount Pleasant (23 points) on Friday. Pleasant Grove earned one point to remain in second place with 20.

On Monday, SSHS hosts Mount Pleasant in another pivotal game. If the Wildcats can win or even take the game into a shootout, it will allow them to gain ground in the standings.

"We're still in the playoff hunt. We're going to be there until the very last game because Paris and Pleasant Grove play that night," Holt said. "We need to come out Monday night at home and have a great game against Mount Pleasant.

"Hopefully we'll have a great crowd and great weather."

JUNIOR VARSITY

SSHS 2, PG 2

The SSHS JV tied with Pleasant Grove despite a furious second-half rally. Leo Becerra scored the Wildcats' first goal on a penalty kick, then Koby Wimberley scored off an assist from Juan Juarez for the final tally.

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