CARROLLTON — Just like when Mount Pleasant and Kilgore scrimmaged and met again in the regular season, the difference between the two teams was minimal.
Ismael Fernandez scored the only goal of the game off a Darwin Amaya assist less than three minutes into extra time to give the Tigers a 1-0 victory over the Bulldogs in the Class 4A Region II soccer final on Saturday afternoon at Standridge Stadium.
Making its first trip to state since 2006, Mount Pleasant (21-2-6) will play in the 4A semifinals at either 4 or 6 p.m. on Friday in Georgetown against Wichita Falls Rider, San Antonio Alamo Heights, or Friendswood. Kilgore, last year’s Class 4A state runner-up, ended its season at 20-3-4. Both the Tigers and Bulldogs were playing in their third straight regional tournament.
“Honestly, the last two years we put too much pressure on ourselves,” Mount Pleasant head coach Jason Mayfield said. “We graduated seven very good seniors last year. When we got here, we put too much pressure on ourselves and bad things happened after that.”
The Bulldogs came close to tying the game in the second overtime when a long shot by Cole Lawrence fell victim to the heavy wind gusts, rose, and slammed into the crossbar on a day when scoring chances were few and far between and the wind rattled the light standards.
“Hey, East Texas is going to state,” first-year Kilgore head coach Aaron Erickson said. “That¹s all that matters.”
Neither team could muster much in the way of offense in the first half.
Kilgore seemed to turn up the pressure in the final 15 minutes of the second half, but even three consecutive corner kicks in a short span near the end of the half couldn¹t help the Bulldogs find the back of the net.
“I felt like if they did get a score, it would be on a shot from outside,” Mayfield said. “We did a pretty good job keeping them out and from being real threatening. With this wind, you can score from anywhere on that half of the field.”
Mount Pleasant beat Kilgore, 1-0, in a scrimmage before the regular season.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the regular season. The Tigers are shooting for their first state championship.