MP overcomes early SS goal to take district lead

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

Feb. 5, 2008 - When Sulphur Springs' Cruz Lozano stole the ball immediately after kickoff on Monday and turned toward the Mount Pleasant goal, no one - not the MP goal keeper and not SS coach Andy Holt - expected what came next.

Lozano, the little guy with the big leg, was at the bottom of the center circle when he unexpectedly boomed a 50-yard kick that just kept going until it somehow made it between the keeper's leaping hands and the crossbar and into the net. Just like that - 11 seconds into the soccer match - the Wildcats, on an unbelievable kick, had a 1-0 lead on their top rival for the District 16-4A title.

Sulphur Springs, ultimately though, couldn't match Mount Pleasant goal-for-goal and fell 3-2 at Gerald Prim Stadium.

The match had the intensity that Holt had expected, and the excitement started with Lozano's goal.

"That was a playoff atmosphere. The intensity was there, and we played hard," said Holt. "You can't fault the effort, because it was there. I thought we played well as far as creating things up top. I'm very proud of the way they played, and we can build on that."

Mount Pleasant got a goal and two assists from Nelson Zelaya. His final assist came with 11 minutes left in the game when he fired a shot from 15 yards out that SSHS goalie Mario Arellano was able to make a diving save. But the deflected ball rolled off to the left side, where Mount Pleasant's Emmanuel Villaruel ran onto it and knocked it past a scrambling Arellano for the go-ahead goal.

Sulphur Springs had a final chance to tie the game with 2:40 to play when Victor Medina's free kick was headed toward the goal by Omar Ortiz, but MP keeper Edwin Mendez gloved it for one of his five saves.

Arellano finished with 10 saves, including seven in the second half.

After the Wildcats took the early lead, Mount Pleasant' Zelaya put in the equalizer on a nice cross from the left side. Zelaya returned the favor in the second half when he fed Ernrique Rodriguez with a pass to the left post.

The Wildcats tied the score at 2-2 at the 21:52 mark of the second half when Lozano slid in front of a Tiger defender to redirect a corner kick by Tate Ramirez inside the near post.

The Wildcats had more offensive opportunities in the first half, but had a header by Lozano skip over the crossbar and another shot by Lozano off a corner kick by Ramirez that skidded parallel to the goal line before spinning away. Oscar Marroquin also took a left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box that rolled just a foot wide of the near post.

The Wildcats knew they would have to be good offensively because Mount Pleasant had scored 11 goals in its first two district matches.

"Their offense was very good," Holt said. "We just had a couple of mental breakdowns, it seems to me, backside, and they were able to use those to get in and score on the backside. If we eliminate those, we can win the game.

"They do such a great job of running off the ball, and that's something every coach wants his team to do because that's when you're going to get open."

The back line of Jesus Torres, Bailey Booher, Rodrigo Larios, Fernando Arellano and Medina helped blunt most of the Tiger attacks.

"We just couldn't contain them for 80 minutes," Holt said.

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