HARKER HEIGHTS — The Ellison soccer team stood on the sideline at Harker Heights and took in the adoration as their fans cheered them on.
They knew what the 2-0 win over the Knights meant. It wasn’t about beating Harker Heights again.
They had already broken the 0-20-1 streak earlier this season. This time it was about another streak that realistically is about to be broken — the Eagles’ playoff drought.
Ellison (13-6-1, 7-4 8-5A) is all but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs — its first since 2001 — after the win Tuesday. In order to not make the playoffs, the Eagles have to lose all three remaining games and have both Copperas Cove and Heights win all three.
“Mathematically, we are one game away,” Ellison coach Niles Dunnells said. “Realistically, we are right there.”
Heights (12-8-3, 4-6-1), meanwhile, has to win two of its remaining three games (Shoemaker, Temple, Waco Midway) to make the playoffs.
“We got to get six points,” Heights coach Jared Cruddas said. “Mathematically we are not out of it. We certainly hold our own destiny, but we have to quit beating ourselves and get a result.”
Ellison went up 1-0 on an odd play in the 11th minute, when Heights goalkeeper Luis Garcia came up to meet the ball and Ellison senior Ryan Stuckey dinked the ball by him and the ball slowly rolled into the back of the goal.
“It was not a good mistake,” Cruddas said. “I think, if anything, that goal put a little fire under us. They did not have a lot of opportunities in the first half. It is the first time we have been shut out all year, so it is a good testament to their defense.”
The Eagles nearly made it 2-0 in the 48th minute, but junior Mohamed Balde was ruled offsides after sending a swift shot into the back of the net on a one-on-one opportunity.
It took another 20 minutes before Ellison secured the win.
And not before a little controversy.
Harker Heights tried to get a free kick off quickly, and sent a shot into the back of the net. However, the ball was ruled not ready for play and Heights had to take the shot again.
The second time, the ball bounced off the Ellison wall and back to Jonathan Keene, who sent a pass up the sideline to Nathan Diederich. The junior forward then slotted a pass to Juan Pulido, who knocked it into the net with 8:55 remaining.
“After they scored a goal on an illegal restart, the ball comes off the wall and we go counter and Nathan sent a great pass in to Juan and the composure Juan had to finish it off was amazing,” Dunnells said. “It was a great counter. It was picture perfect.”