SALADO — Brownwood earned the victory. It also created an enemy.
After playing 51 scoreless minutes, the Lions capitalized on an inadvertent penalty by Salado, scoring the match’s lone goal on the ensuing kick to claim the second annual Salado Eagle Classic championship Saturday afternoon at Eagle Stadium.
As if losing 1-0 in the finals of its host tournament on a penalty kick was not bad enough, the fact Salado fell to its newest District 34-4A foe left the Eagles hungry for revenge.
“Brownwood better watch out in district,” Salado junior goalkeeper Mason Price said.
Price’s teammate Tristan Bragg agreed.
“We still have two games left against them, so I’m excited,” the midfielder said. “This is going to (be in the back of our minds) through the practices and everything. It is going to motivate us.”
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, the Lions were attacking near Salado’s goal when the ball took a unexpected bounce and Eagles defender J.P. Michaels accidentally touched it with his hand, setting up a short, straight-on penalty kick inside the box.
Brownwood senior Michael Westerman delivered the penalty kick past Price, giving the Lions a lead they managed to hold on to for the duration of the match despite Salado producing several shots on goal during the final frenetic minutes.
The Eagles found themselves battling the clock as they looked to pull even and almost did so as the final buzzer sounded.
Salado (6-5-2 overall) pushed the ball deep into Brownwood territory, and with less than five seconds remaining, Bragg delivered a bicycle kick toward the goal, but Lions goalkeeper Tim Murphy made a save to secure the championship and create an instant rival.
“I think that (penalty kick) kind of took the wind out of our sails, even though the kids kept fighting afterward,” Salado head coach Michael Goos said. “It is kind of disheartening to work that hard and lose like that.”
The Lions (6-1-2) dominated the field for the first 15 minutes of the abbreviated 60-minute match before Salado’s offense began clicking. Josh Rogers produced two of the Eagles’ four first-half shots on goal, including a header deflected by Murphy late in the half, but none found the net.
Salado attempted five shots in the second half, but Murphy recorded four saves and Eagles midfielder Daniel Lemus’ shot from near midfield soared toward the goal before bending left and bouncing off the top corner of the frame.
“We had our chances, but we just couldn’t find a way to score today,” Goos said.
The lack of success, however, did not detour the Eagles from attempting to rally for a game-tying score, even as the final seconds ticked away.
“I didn’t get a full range of motion, so I just had to get it and float it in the air,” Bragg said of his bicycle kick at then end of regulation. “Luckily (for Brownwood), the keeper hit it against the crossbar and time ran out.”
After playing to an intense finish, Goos believes the loss could benefit his team as it prepares to begin district play in less than two weeks.
“I think it is going to make us that much more hungry going into district,” Goos said. “Brownwood is a good team, and we will be fighting with them both times we play them. We’ll have two game just like this.”
Salado 3, Gatesville 1 — After losing a disappointing semifinal match on a penalty kick Friday evening, Salado rebounded Saturday morning to claim third place at the Salado Eagle Classic.
Neither team scored in the first half, but the Lady Eagles constructed a 2-0 lead on goals by midfielder Kylie Robinson and junior Anissa Peralta, who knocked in a shot after Gatesville goalkeeper Rebecca Dunahoo bobbled a ball.
Hornets senior forward Veronica Mendez pulled Gatesville (3-10-0) within a goal at 2-1, but Robinson struck again for Salado to provide the match’s final goal.
“When they showed up this morning, they were pretty worn out,” Lady Eagles head coach Michael Goos said of his players. “It took us a little while to get going, but once we did, we played very smart and did exactly what we wanted to.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com