Talk about a tight race! The Veterans Memorial Patriots boys’ soccer team is one of three teams within a single point of the District 61-4A championship with only two games to go. After their clutch 2-1 win over the Rio Grande City Rattlers Tuesday evening, the Patriots have 16 points in the standings while the Rattlers and the Roma Gladiators are atop the race with 17 points each.
Having fallen to the Rattlers by a score of 3-0 in the first round of district play and having suffered only their second loss of the season at the hands of the Mission Eagles last Friday evening, Coach William Proctor’s boys bounced back in a big way against the Rattlers on their home field Tuesday. With the win the Patriots not only improved their district record to 6-2 but they kept their district championship hopes alive with only Roma and La Grulla still on their schedule.
After a scoreless first half Tuesday evening, Veterans Memorial’s Jonathan Manzo scored with a header off a corner kick at the 34:50 mark of the second half. Then with the score tied at 1-1, Omar Luna scored the eventual game-winning goal for the Patriots with 15:52 left in the game.
“This was a big win for us,” explained Proctor. “Rio Grande has been the front-runner and I thought they were going to run away with the district. I was just hoping to be able to go to a shoot-out with them tonight but my boys came to play and pulled out the victory. Our goal is to win district and this win helps us a lot.”
With district co-leader Roma on their schedule tonight, Veterans Memorial has their work cut-out for them if they are going to pull ahead of the Gladiators and keep pace with the Rattlers who are playing the fourth place Mission Eagles at Tom Landry Stadium tonight.
“It’s going to be close because our last two games are going to be tough games,” said Proctor. “Our previous games against Roma and La Grulla were both very close. We won both games but they were both in shoot-outs.”
“We’re going to try our best to win both games,” added Proctor. “But we’ll just have to wait to see how the cards play out.”
After Tuesday night’s big win, Patriots’ senior defenseman Jorge Cavazos shared what he felt the victory demonstrated about him and his teammates.
“This win shows that we have a lot of character as a team and that we have enough confidence to know that we could beat anybody in the district,” said Cavazos. “We messed up when we played them before but we’ve had one goal in mind all along and that’s to win the district title. We knew that we had to beat these guys in order to be in a position to achieve that goal and that’s what we did.”
While Patriots’ senior mid-fielder and center Juan Ahumada did not play in Tuesday night’s game because he had five penalty card points, which in accordance with University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules requires a one game suspension, he knew what a big win his teammates had just pulled off against Rio Grande.
“We had to win this game tonight so that we could be more cheerful and more energetic as we prepare to go up against Roma Friday,” explained Ahumada. “We’re going to be giving it our all against the Gladiators because we want the district title and we’re not going to let it slip out of our hands. Hopefully Mission will beat Rio Grande so that we can be right there equal with the Rattlers or even ahead of them with just one game left to play.”