Second-half explosion propels Denton past Azle


Photo by: Chandler Elsbecker

Junior Wes Kohler dribbles past a Hornet defender during the Broncos’ win Friday in Azle.

Having fallen in the final moments Tuesday night in Wichita Falls to Rider, the pressure was on Denton to maintain their three-point lead at the top of District 5-5A. Friday they did just that, topping fourth-place Azle in a 4-0 rout at Hornet Stadium.

“I told them to come out and respond,” head coach Ryan Dunlevy said. “[The Rider game] was the first loss we’ve had in 14 or 15 games, and that’s exactly what they did. They responded well: fast, hard, quality soccer. It was beautiful to watch.”

The response was a bit delayed, as the Broncos were unable to get a shot on target for the first 36 minutes of the first half. Additionally, senior Zach Alspach left the game in the 26th minute due to injury, being replaced in the midfield by senior Daniel Olvera. Senior Feliciano Amaya took all four of Denton’s attempts, the closest going just wide of the right post after a lengthy run down the left side in the 27th minute.

We must win. Every game from here on out, we need to win. Period.”

— Ryan DunLevy, Head Men's Soccer Coach

The Hornets produced a few chances of their own. In the 29th, junior Pepe Ballesteros twirled past a defender and got a shot on goal, but senior keeper Christian Rodriguez parried it out of bounds for a corner.

The breakthrough for the Broncos finally came just before halftime, when senior Zach Ardis dumped it off to senior Chris Torres. Torres took advantage of the space the Hornets offered, trying a shot from over 30 yards out that deflected off of a defender and went in past the deceived Azle keeper. Denton took the 1-0 lead into halftime.

Denton upped the pressure to open the second half, immediately producing opportunities in the Azle penalty area. In the 53rd minute, junior Wes Kohler crossed to senior Rigels Diko, who curled the ball into the far corner. Just seconds later, the Broncos regained possession, and Amaya had another attempt that was saved and rebounded right to Diko, who again buried the shot.

The score remained 3-0 until the 78th minute, when Kohler added a goal of his own that tied Denton with Wichita Falls in goal differential. Because of the small gap between the two teams in the standings, a blowout was necessary.

“We needed a 3-0 win, period, and that’s it,” Dunlevy said. “I asked for three; they gave me four.”

With some important players missing, Dunlevy said the result was a team effort.

“It took everybody,” he said. “We were missing a few players tonight, and we had to have some people come and step up. Christian had a heck of a game; he made some huge saves at pivotal times in the game that could have changed the outcome. Defensively, we handled everything. The first half, they had a couple opportunities in behind, and we made some adjustments with our lineup and our roster. The kids that stepped in did a great job.”

Azle, despite the lopsided score line, clinched a playoff spot, with Brewer and Boswell’s losses. Now at 14-4-1 (6-4-1 in district, 22 points), the Hornets host the aforementioned Bears (8-8-2, 3-8-1, 10 points) for their senior night Monday.

Still atop the district, Denton (15-2-3, 10-1-1, 31 points) plays Saginaw (5-11-1, 4-8-0, 12 points) at Bronco Field on Monday. In the teams’ previous meeting at Rough Rider Stadium on Feb. 13, the Broncos came away 3-0 victors.

The win knocks Azle out of first-place contention, and a win Monday would do the same to third-place Rider. However, with Wichita Falls winning 2-0 versus Boswell and keeping within three points of Denton, a district title is still not in the bag for the Broncos with two games to go.

“Monday is a huge game,” Dunlevy said. “We must win. Every game from here on out, we need to win. Period.”