Heading into the final night of the regular season, Harker Heights controls its destiny in regard to the final soccer playoff spot in District 8-5A — but the margin for error is thin.
Heights, which hosts first-place Waco Midway tonight, leads fifth-place Ellison by just one point in the standings, meaning the Knights need a win or have the same result as Ellison to maintain their hold on fourth place.
Anything else, and Ellison will clinch the final playoff spot on the last day of the regular season. This final-night pressure is nothing new for these two teams.
The Eagles and Knights have been waiting to see who will blink first ever since Heights defeated Ellison in the teams’ second meeting to gain the slim lead in the standings.
Heights blinked Tuesday, losing 5-1 to Temple, but the Knights feel confident that they’ll be able to make good on a second opportunity tonight.
“It’s our senior night and we are at home and we haven’t dropped points there in a couple of months, so we feel confident about it,” Heights head coach Ryan Flanigan said. “We played them well last time at their place, so anytime you bring somebody into your house it’s obviously an advantage, even if it is the district champ.”
Ellison is more confident after consecutive wins against Temple and Copperas Cove. And knowing that it has a chance to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season has added pep to the Eagles’ step.
“Against Cove, there wasn’t really a sense of that in the locker room per se,” Ellison head coach Niles Dunnells said. “But after that game, there’s definitely been a pickup in spirits and we’re playing with that.”
Coming off the two straight wins, Dunnells said his Eagles, who face Killeen tonight, are simply looking to continue doing what they’ve been doing.
“As long as we play to our strengths I think we’ll be successful,” Dunnells said. “It’s when we try to play away from those and try to do individual things rather than team that gets us in trouble.
“So, I think as long as we’re focused on the team aspect of it rather than individualistic then we’ll be successful.”
Heights will look to change it up against Midway, after losing by four goals to Temple.
“Any time you lose you’ve got to change something,” Flanigan said. “We reassessed ourselves and started correcting it.”
The Knights essentially have no choice but to fix whatever ailed them Tuesday.
If they don’t, they may be sitting at home for the postseason.
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