WACO — The Ellison Eagles were so close in the first half of their Region I-5A bi-district matchup against the Duncanville Panthers.
Scrambles for the ball they just missed, crossing passes that were just too strong, rebound opportunities that were saved.
In the second half those came back to haunt them.
Duncanville scored six goals in the second half to pull away from Ellison 7-1 on Friday at Waco ISD Stadium.
“Two or three weeks ago, nobody even had us here playing,” Ellison head coach Niles Dunnells said. “These guys were resilient out here, and they should be proud of what they’ve done.”
Duncanville (19-1-2) ended Ellison’s (9-10-3) year for the second straight season. Last year the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but lost to the Panthers 2-0.
Senior midfielder Jonathon Keene had the Eagles’ only goal of the night.
“We had a lot of great chances, but we just came up unlucky,” senior defender William Barbrow said.
Chris Escalera got Duncanville on the board with an early goal. Escalera broke away out wide from the Ellison defense and kicked it in when Eagles keeper Marquis Wood came out to challenge the play.
But the celebration wasn’t a jubilant one as both players stayed on the turf for a few minutes and Wood did not return to the game.
“They got the ball out wide and played it through on a 50-50 fair ball,” Dunnells said. “It was just a 50-50 fair fight that ended up in the back of the net.”
Sophomore Michael Charlton came in to play for the rest of the game after playing for less than 25 minutes the entire season and made six saves.
Given the circumstances, Charlton performed well, especially turning aside a first-half Duncanville charge in which the Panthers got off four shots in a six-minute span.
“We’re all proud of Michael for stepping up in that spot; that’s a big spot,” Barbrow said. “You have a lot of weight on your shoulders and losing Marquis early in the game was a big loss because he’s helped us out a lot throughout the year. It was just something we had to overcome.”
In the second half, the Panthers started connecting and that led to the end of Ellison’s season.
Josh Erwin took an Eagle clearing attempt just outside of the goal box semicircle, dribbled a few yards and put a scorching shot on net. Charlton got a hand on it, but not enough as Duncanville doubled its lead with 31:50 remaining after a goal by Tim Ugo.
Escalera broke in on net and put in a shot from the left side to put the game away with 26 minutes remaining.
Offensively, the Eagles had only two shots on goal, including the penalty kick.
Ellison got on the board with 13:36 remaining when Duncanville was called for a handball inside the penalty box and Keene beat Josh Nieto on the lower left side of the net for the final score of Ellison’s season.
“I just looked down at the ground,” Keene said about the penalty shot. “I don’t even look at the keeper.”
The game was a bittersweet end for the 14 seniors on the Ellison soccer team’s roster.
“Two years in a row they set the bar, they set the mark and they need to be proud of what they’ve done,” Dunnells said. “They set a new level for Ellison soccer and hopefully these young guys are going to see that and respond to it.”