WAXAHACHIE — A late go-ahead goal, seven yellow cards and a 1-0 final result.

Welcome to boys Class 6A playoff soccer.

Neither Belton nor Rockwall-Heath gave an inch on the defensive front for 75 minutes Friday night until the Tigers’ offensive attack finally capitalized on the break it was looking for all game. Oscar Vargas found Simon Howe with a pass across the box, and Howe chipped the ball past Hawks goalkeeper Austin Dunegan for the lone tally, propelling Belton to victory in a bi-district match at Indian Field.

The victory snapped a three-game first-round losing streak for the District 12-6A champion Tigers, who will face McKinney in the area round next week.

“This is a great moment for our program,” said Howe, who scored on Belton’s seventh and final shot on goal. “We found a way tonight. We kept fighting and we found a way to put it away. Big win for us.

“This is a big memory for me. Today was my grandma’s 70th birthday and she passed away last year. So this is a big game for me and my family.”

Belton (21-0-2) outshot Rockwall-Heath 4-2 in the second half and finished with eight corner kicks compared to the Hawks’ one. The Tigers were the aggressors in the second half but struggled to put anything in the net until the late going.

“Heath had a lot of tall players and that really got in our way,” Howe said. “It’s frustrating when we can’t score, but we all work really hard. We play for each other, stick together and overcame the adversity.”

The Tigers pride themselves on their physical play, but Rockwall-Heath (7-8-8) — the fourth seed out of competitive 11-6A — matched Belton and then some. The Tigers were shown four yellow cards — all in the second half — and the Hawks drew three yellows. From the 51st to the 53rd minutes, two yellows were issued to Belton and one to Rockwall-Heath as the intensity rose as the game remained scoreless.

“We just had to stay calm and not get too frustrated,” Belton head coach Ben Bralley said. “We missed out on some good opportunities to score, so that makes things frustrating. But it’s soccer. I hate to say that it got to us, but it was a constant up-and-down emotion this game. But we kept fighting through it.”

Andres Martinez earned the shutout in goal for Belton. He finished with four saves, none more impressive than a full-extension dive to the ground to thwart a rolling shot headed for the corner of the net in the first half.

Both squads had opportunities to break the scoreless tie in the second half. Camryn Gilmore’s header in the 46th minute was knocked away by Dunegan, and a free kick from 30 yards out by Vargas proved uneventful in the 53rd minute for Belton. The Tigers also had four corner kicks from the 65th to the 69th minute that came up empty, thanks to successful clear outs by the Hawks.

“We understood what (Rockwall-Heath) was going to do, so we played against that and had strong chances, especially in the second half,” Bralley said. “We had a ton of opportunities off set pieces that just didn’t go in for us. In the second half, we focused on opening things up and I think that was the difference.”

Rockwall-Heath tried to make something happen in the final minutes, but Belton’s back line — which recorded its 15th shutout of the season — held strong.

“We play in a very tough district, so even coming into this one facing the No. 1 seed from 12-6A, we were confident that we could get the win,” Rockwall-Heath head coach Phil Duhon said. “We have a ton of respect for Belton, but we weren’t intimidated. We’ve had three games this year decided by more than one goal and six games go into overtime during district. We’re used to playing tight games. This one just didn’t go our way.”

BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Class 6A bi-district

  • Belton 1, Rockwall-Heath 0

Class 4A bi-district

  • Palestine 8, Gatesville 1

GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Class 6A bi-district

  • Rockwall-Heath 6, Ellison 0

Class 4A bi-district

  • Boerne 9, Lampasas 0
  • Gatesville 4, Madisonville 0

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