By definition, Friday night’s playoff between Pleasanton and Gonzales had everything a pure soccer enthusiast could want. Great defense – check. High energy from both sides – check. A furious finish – check. High drama – check.
Unfortunately for Apache fans, it was the last one that ended the Tribe’s season, as a phantom penalty was called on the Apaches late in the first half that led to the lone score of the game as Pleasanton escaped with a 1-0 victory at Floresville’s Eschenburg Field.
“I hate that any game is decided on a referee’s call,” said Coach Billy Holifield. “I’d rather let the kids play it out and whoever wins, wins. Any time there’s a call like [the one in the first half] that changes the game, it hurts a little more.”
The first half started out about as perfect as the Tribe could have drawn it up. An aggressive offensive attack kept Eagles on their heels as they were forced to scramble on defense. Several Apaches put shots on goal, but great goalie play and a little misfortune kept the ball from finding the back of the net.
“Our kids hustled,” said Holifield. “We did a lot of great things in the game, we controlled the game most of the time. Our passes were good and we had a lot of shots on goal. You just have to respect the job that their goalie did. He did a fantastic job.”
The moment began to swing about 25 minutes into the first half when Pleasanton began to string some passes together and move the ball into their scoring zone. Freshman goal keeper Andres Govea was up to the challenge, though, and kept turning the Eagles away.
In the 30th minute of the first half, the Apaches were called for a questionable penalty – a call that just moments earlier didn’t go the way of the Tribe. Serjio Banda was given a penalty kick and he sailed it to the top left corner of the net, just over a diving Govea, for the lone goal of the night.
For his part, Govea stopped nearly a dozen shots by the Eagles on the evening. “He’s gonna be something special for the future of Gonzales soccer,” said Holifield. Govea was able to shut out the Eagles in the second half to keep the Tribe in the game.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair until the last 7:30 of the game when the Apaches began a frantic attempt at a comeback. Tristan Gomez, Duran Mendoza, Jonathan Tejada and Jose Velasques all had shots that seemed destined to equalize the score, only for the attempt to be deflected or outright stopped by the Eagles defense.
As the final seconds ticked down, the Tribe had one last chance to send the game into overtime, but it wasn’t meant to be as the last shot of the season went wide of the net and out of bounds.
Holifield summed up the Apaches’ effort simply, “Our kids played their butts off. They left everything on the field and they have nothing to be ashamed of. It hurts for the seniors, but life goes on.”
The Apaches end their season at 10-14 and begin the look forward to next season where a new district with new opponents awaits, as well as young players who will be looking to step up and fill the void. “In this group, we’ve got four or five freshmen over there, and three or four sophomores, so our future looks good,” said Holifield. Gonzales will be leaving its current district of teams located on the Gulf Coast and join a district that will feature teams from the Greater San Antonio Area, including La Vernia, Fox Tech, Kennedy and Memorial, along with current district foe Yoakum.