Senior Christian Rodriguez is greeted by seniors Israel Galvan and Feliciano Amaya after the conclusion of the penalty shootout.

Photo by: Chandler Elsbecker

Broncos survive against South Hills

Rodriguez saves three in penalties

April 9, 2015

Denton again escaped with their playoff run still alive Tuesday at Northwest ISD Stadium, coming away with a shootout win over South Hills. Leveling the score at one each with eight minutes to go in regulation, the Broncos played a scoreless overtime before besting the Scorpions 3-1 in four rounds of penalties. With the win, Denton advances to the 5A Region 1 Semifinal, one step closer to a state final than in their 2014 run.

“I told them that it was going to be a close game,” head coach Ryan Dunlevy said. “I told them that we had to come out and play a great game, and that’s what we did.”

Problems started early for Denton. South Hills’ Alfonso Morales put the Scorpions on the board quickly, redirecting a corner from senior Marcos Pinales into the top left corner in the seventh minute of play. It was the Scorpions’ first shot on goal.

The Broncos’ attempts to advance the ball were ineffective; they produced just one shot on goal and forced two corners in the first half. Dunlevy shuffled personnel, bringing on senior Braeden Petrie and sophomore Marco Arellano, but none of the changes yielded a scoring combination. The Broncos went into halftime still down a goal.

Four minutes into the second half, Denton junior Wes Kohler found a patch of space and fired from long distance. Though it flew over the bar, the opening shot was an early indicator of the bombardment that was to come: the Broncos would take a total of 14 shots in the second half, compared to just five in the first.

Eleven minutes later, senior Chris Torres evaded a pair of defenders and looped a ball over to fellow senior and frequent scoring partner Feliciano Amaya. Amaya stayed onside and successfully volleyed, but the ball again soared over the goal. Amaya again had an opportunity in the 69th minute, receiving a cross from the wing by Kohler, but the header was wide.

The Broncos continued their attack through the rest of the half, but the Scorpions’ defenders pressured the ball and limited their chances, blocking four shots and an attempted cross.

Desperate to get the ball forward with time winding down, Denton accelerated the attack. In the 72nd minute, senior Chandler Page curled a ball from the back and over the middle to a darting Torres, who settled and shot, sneaking the ball past the South Hills keeper and into the bottom left corner.

“Chandler saw the play developing, and he just laid it off,” Torres said. “I had to finish; I saw the left post wide open.”

Unable to stay back with the score now 1-1, the Scorpions pressed forward. However, it nearly cost them dearly, as the Broncos came agonizingly close to a winner on the counterattack within the last 30 seconds of regulation. Amaya, alone on the breakaway, drew the keeper out of his net as he neared the goal. With one man to beat, he decided to chip the ball over the orange-clad obstacle in his path, but it was mere inches over the bar, keeping the deadlock intact and forcing overtime.

After 80 minutes, cramping had not set in on the Denton players, and accordingly, the attacking approach was maintained into extra time. Torres nearly assisted on a pair of set pieces in the ninth and 18th minutes of the extra period, respectively, but the headers from senior Rigels Diko and Amaya were both off target.

We’re going to be more fit than any team we play. Our offseason is harder than any other offseason in the state. I stand by that; I said it in my interview when I interviewed for this job. They bought into it early on, and that’s what helped us win this game.”

— head soccer coach Ryan Dunlevy

The Scorpions sprang forward for a final time in the 19th minute. Senior Christian Rodriguez, anticipating the break, rushed to cut off the attack, but the dribbler, alone on the breakaway, took an early shot over Rodriguez’s head. As the ball sailed toward the net, junior Jordan King hastened to the goal line and booted the ball away from danger, narrowly avoiding disaster.

“I was confident Christian was going to make it, but just in case, I was running back,” King said. “It just happened to go over, and I just thought to clear it out to be safe.”

The final minute wound down, sending the game into penalties. Rodriguez was the first keeper to assume his position in front of the net. As Rodriguez watched the first penalty taker, he noticed his opponent’s hips were abnormally pointed to his left post.

“No one at this level, this far in the playoffs, is going to face their hips to the right and shoot it to the right,” Rodriguez said. “So I’m like, ‘Every single one of them is going to face their hips to the right and go to the left and think I’m not going to understand them.’”

Rodriguez dove to his right and stopped the shot, setting up senior Zach Ardis, who buried his. In the second round, Rodriguez again lunged right and got a fingertip on the ball, enough to force it wide. Senior Zach Alspach made the margin 2-0, though in the third round Rodriguez was beaten. Torres, however, fired his shot into the top right corner, negating the goal and forcing South Hills to either convert or go home. Rodriguez, going right a third time, ensured that it was the latter, stonewalling the shot and inciting hysteria as the Denton bench (and supporters) flooded the field.

Rodriguez said that after repeated practice, he was confident heading into the shootout.

“We did PK’s every day after practice,” Rodriguez said. “Before my PK, you could tell, I’d come out about four yards and I would stare at them. I would stare at them and kind of mentally tell them, ‘You’re not going to get past me unless you put a perfect PK in’.”

Denton (19-2-4) travels to Wichita Falls Friday to play District 2-5A champions Bel Air (17-6-1). The Highlanders beat Eastlake 3-2 in their Regional Quarterfinal game Monday. After proving their fitness for 100 minutes against South Hills, Dunlevy thinks that going forward, his team has an advantage.

“We’re going to be more fit than any team we play,” Dunlevy said. “Our offseason is harder than any other offseason in the state. I stand by that; I said it in my interview when I interviewed for this job. They bought into it early on, and that’s what helped us win this game.”

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