The Salado Eagles soccer team will travel three hours today to face Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville in the second round of the postseason.
“It’s a long bus ride and you don’t want to be stressing the whole time,” said Eagles senior centerback Clayton Cole. “But once we get close to that stadium, we need to turn on the switch and realize why we’re there. We’re not going there just to enjoy the experience. We’re hungry and we’re playing to win.”
The Eagles did a lot of that this year, win.
Salado won the District 34-4A championship, defeated Mexia 2-0 on Tuesday in first-round playoff action, and has an overall record of 17-5-1.
“And we’re definitely hungry for more wins,” said senior captain and forward Tristan Bragg who has 21 goals and nine assists this year. “As a senior and a captain, I want to see our whole team 100 percent focused on the game. This is not the time to be thinking about school, how tired you are or your girl friend. This team we’re playing beat us before, so we need to get back at them.”
Two years ago, Jacksonville ended Salado’s season in the second round with a 3-0 win.
“Jacksonville is still very skilled,” said Eagles head coach Michael Goos. “They’re very athletic and very quick. For us, we must remain organized and not put ourselves in vulnerable positions. We have done very well with that this year.”
Playing next to Cole at center-back is senior Josh Rogers.
“Clayton Cole and Josh play so well together in the back,” Goos said.
“Josh is probably our most athletic kid. He’s very aggressive, very fast. Josh and Clayton are our anchors in the back. They both communicate well with everyone in front of them.”
“We’re expecting to face a good passing team,” Cole said. “They’ll try and get a lot of through-balls, speed-on-speed stuff. But we’ve played fast teams before and handled them. So I’m very confident going into this game.”
On offense, Goos is hoping senior midfielder Daniel Lemus can use his own speed and perhaps feed some through-balls up to Bragg.
“Tristan Bragg has been so impressive for us,” Goos said. “And Daniel is also so consistent, too. Daniel can run forever.”
There is a strong possibility Jacksonville may try and double Bragg.
“Normally, if I’m double-manned, I just move around a lot more,” Bragg said. “I’ll just try and create some more space for my teammates. If I can’t score, then my teammates will get some scores. And even if I am double-manned, that doesn’t mean that I still won’t be trying to score.
“I know we can do this—get the win. There are eight or nine of us that have been playing soccer together since we were little kids. I know how our entire team feels: We’re not ready for this season to end.”