Yazeed Matthews has made quite a name for himself at Tyler Junior College.
He is one of the top soccer players in the NJCAA, but the sophomore forward just wants to talk about his team.
“I remember last year when we lost in the national championship game,” said Matthews of TJC’s 1-0 double-overtime loss to Louisburg (North Carolina) in the NJCAA title contest. “That is what we remember.”
That loss has driven Matthews and his teammates for the 2016 season. That burning desire has coach Steve Clements’ Apaches unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the nation. TJC is 18-0 overall and the Region XIV regular season champion with a 14-0 mark.
Matthews, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Apaches are ready for the second season as the playoffs begin Saturday.
TJC takes on Laredo in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. at Pat Hartley Field. Laredo (8-6-1) advanced with a 5-0 win over Northeast Texas Community College on Wednesday. The other semifinal has San Jacinto-South playing host to Coastal Bend, a 2-0 winner over Paris Junior College, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The semifinal winners advance to the district championship where the winner earns a berth in the national tournament, which is scheduled for Nov. 14-19 in Tyler. The district receives two bids to nationals.
If the Apaches defeat Laredo on Saturday, TJC will host the district championship game on Nov. 6.
“We have not forgotten about last year’s final,” said the 6-0, 190-pounder. “We also know anything can happen in the playoffs. We have to play mistake-free.
“We have to finish.”
The Apaches are seeking their eighth straight national tournament appearance. They have won four national championships, including unbeaten teams in 2009 (21-0) and 2010 (20-0-1).
Matthews has scored 21 goals with seven assists.
Clements said scoring 20 goals is the “magic number” which gets players looks from colleges all over the nation.
And Matthews has gained that attention, but first he wants to complete an undefeated and national championship season.
SMOKE SIGNALS: The Apache Ladies soccer team will play Navarro at 2 p.m. Sunday at Pat Hartley Field in the Region XIV championship. The winner advances to the district championnship.