Liberty Hill’s Adrien Ybarra and Abel De La Rocha scored goals in the second half and the Lions rallied to beat Patterson 2-1 on May 19 in the Killeen ISD eighth-grade championship game at Leo Buckley Stadium.
The highly anticipated game championship game did not disappoint. Patterson was undefeated (5-0) in the regular season and boasted an 11-game win streak dating back to its seventh-grade championship season. The Lions were on a six-game undefeated streak after escaping Salado on penalties in the semifinals.
The first half started with both teams having opportunities in front of the goal but neither team was able to capitalize. The midfield battle between Patterson’s Alex Fernandez and Liberty Hill’s Devin Leatherwood was intense with both spraying the ball all over the field to their attacking threats.
The Cavs were able to break the deadlock with Edwin Vega breaking down the right side of the field. After turning the defender and getting a one-on-one with the Lions keeper, Vega was able slot a shot into the bottom right corner for the only score in the first half.
In the second half, the Lions decided to press the Cavs a little higher up the field, leaving little space for them to pick out passes. The Lions begin to dominate possession with Leatherwood finding his attacking wingers, Juan Vidal and Adrien Ybarra, in space. The wingers looked for De La Rocha to set him up for shots on goal but he was unable to capitalize on some opportunities. One of his chances led to a corner kick, where Adrien Ybarra played the ball in the box with a lot of curve that the keeper misread for the equalizer.
With the Lions still dictating the pace of the game with short passes, Leatherwood found Ybarra, who then was able assist De La Rocha for the go-ahead score, a low driven shot into the left corner.
The Cavs fought hard in the last five minutes, getting several opportunities at goal but Liberty Hill keeper Dominic Choquette was able to keep them at bay. He was aided by defensive standouts Crusito DeLeon-Sanchez and Jordan Marshall, with David Lanxon and Davion Washington providing support.
LIBERTY HILL 3, SALADO 3 (Liberty Hill wins 5-4 on penalties): Salado fought back from a 3-1 deficit to send the game to penalty kicks, but the Lions won the shootout and advanced to the title game after Choquette stopped the Eagles’ fourth attempt.
Juan Vidal, De La Rocha, Ybarra, Leatherwood and Jordan Marshall scored for the Lions in the shootout.
The Lions opened the scoring with Vidal’s header off Ybarra’s corner kick.
Later in the first half, Leatherwood assisted on a goal by Ybarra and the Lions took a 2-0 lead into intermission.
Salado cut the deficit in half in the second half, but on the ensuing kickoff, De La Rocha’s long blast caught the keeper off guard and Liberty Hill led 3-1.
Also contributing for Liberty Hill this season were Nicholas Bell, Thomas Gutierrez, Mateusz Hoskin, Yubran Sevilla and Davion Washington.