Jared Cruddas knew the stat by heart — 20-0-1.
The Harker Heights head boys soccer coach never knew a loss to cross-city rival Ellison. Not as a player or as a coach. Until now.
Eagles senior Ryan Stuckey scored twice, including two minutes into the game, and the Knights surrendered at least one own-goal, as Ellison snapped a dozen-year losing streak to Harker Heights with a 4-2 win Friday at Eagles Field.
“It’s exciting ... We’ve been close so many times, but it’s just a tribute to these guys and the work (they’ve put in),” said Ellison head coach Niles Dunnells, who had never experienced a win over Harker Heights.
“I (will) absolutely enjoy that I finally got a win against Heights, but more importantly we got a win, whether it’s (against) Heights or whoever.”
None of the Ellison players or coaches even knew the exact win-loss record against Heights — now standing at 20-1-1. Not that it matters any more.
“At least we can say we beat them,” Stuckey said. “That’s got to feel great for Dunnells cause he’s been here for a while.”
Proving the aggressors early, the Eagles struck right off the bat as Stuckey scored an assist from junior Nathan Diederich off his left foot and into the right side of the netting for a quick 1-0 advantage 1½ minutes into the contest.
“One thing we talk about is just getting the ball into the mix, you don’t know what’s going to happen in there,” Dunnells said. “The fact that we’re getting it into the mix is just creating opportunities for us.”
Ellison (8-4-1, 2-2 8-5A) kept the pressure on as four minutes later Stuckey played the ball to Diederich, whose shot was deflected by Knights goalie Austin Sisler right into the back of teammate Sean Ortega and into the goal for a 2-0 advantage in the game’s first six minutes.
“Sisler makes a good save and then we knee it in the net — that was a big turning point right there,” Cruddas said.
With Ellison controlling much of the first half, the Knights (10-4-2, 2-2) finally found a little light with 3:02 left as Jordan Foster broke away with a two-on-one opportunity against Eagles senior goalie Matthew Charlton only to pass it across the box to a charging Austin Russell for the easy chip as Heights went into halftime trailing 2-1.
But Stuckey struck again. Ten minutes into the second half, Sisler blocked his shot, but Stuckey got the ricochet and sent the ball sailing into the back of the net to make it 3-1 with 29:13 remaining.
“It feels so great that we beat one of our city rivals, and we just have to focus now on beating them again,” Stuckey said.
In a back-and-forth second half, Russell made it a one-score game, 3-2, when he put in a deflection by Charlton on a shot from Foster with 9:32 left in the game.
The Knights picked up the intensity over the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t take advantage of several free-kick opportunities, before they sealed their own fate with 2:37 remaining. Crowded in the Knights goalie box, Ellison’s Juan Pulido sent in a shot that deflected off Heights forward Nick Pirino and past Sisler for the game-clinching goal. Ellison outshot Harker Heights 17-12 with Charlton registering 10 saves and Sisler reeling in 11.
“We’re so talented that in our four losses we haven’t lost to anybody but ourselves — we’ve beat ourselves four times,” Cruddas said. “Losses are going to come, wins are going to come, we just need to fix us, and we know that.”
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566