ALEDO - Sometimes, you just have to find a way.
Without their starting goal keeper, being outshot for much of the game, Stephenville did just that Tuesday night, scoring with 1:58 remaining to outlast Crowley in a physical, often tense 1-0 bi-district playoff match at Bearcat Stadium.
Jaime Chavarria scored the only goal, taking advantage of a miscue by a Crowley defender to steal the ball and punch it past the keeper.
"It's a dream come true," Chavarria said of continuing his senior season after the win. "I'm very excited. Moments like this are what you practice for every day."
Stephenville faces Fort Worth Trimble Tech in the area round Friday, also at Bearcat Stadium. A time was not announced by press time Tuesday night.
When Chavarria took the ball with the clock nearing the two-minute mark in a game Crowley dominated for the first 50 minutes, only one thought entered his mind.
"Just blast it into the back of the net," Chavarria said. "That's it."
And that's exactly what he did, finally breaking through in a game that had seen many close calls both ways, especially for Crowley.
To say Noble Alexander stepped up in net is a little like saying Aledo has a nice football and soccer facility. Head coach Joe Carter said on Monday he was confident with Noble in net while starter Ernesto Nava is out with an injury, and Alexander backed him up with his play.
That was especially true in the first half, with Crowley generating all the pressure in the opening 15 minutes. There was even a collision following an Alexander save that left the ball bouncing just in front of the net before the Jacket defense was able to clear it out.
Alexander made his third save by the end of the 17th minute, and Crowley banged a header off a side post in the 34th minute. The keeper came out to catch on in traffic in the 25th and made his fourth save in the 30th.
Even after the break, with Crowley still firing away over the first 10 minutes of the second half, Alexander answered every challenge. He made a leaping catch of a Crowley throw in right in front of the net in heavy traffic in the 44th minute, and saw a shot sail high in the 49th.
"He stepped up big time, everybody did," Chavarria said. "It's a team effort."
Around the 50th minute, the momentum began to change.
Stephenville applied pressure in the 53rd minute but got nothing on goal. Chavarria began wearing on the Crowley defenders by the 60th minute. That's when his attack led to a corner kick, and a header by Luis Garcia was left bouncing dangerously in front of Crowley's net. The Crowley keeper finally covered it up before the Jackets could get a foot on the ball.
Stephenville pressured again in the 65th, and when Crowley appeared to be breaking away off the clear, Pedro Mannriquez was there to cut off the Eagles. He did it again a moment later, maintaining the scoreless tie.
Garcia put one on goal only to watch the keeper make a sliding save in the 67th, and seconds later David Pinales ripped one that the keeper dove for, reached after and just got his hand on to deflect the ball away.
Garcia set up William Magana, but the Crowley keeper slid over and stopped the attack just in time.
Alexander's last big stop came when he covered an aggressive through ball from Crowley in the 68th minute, and it was all Jackets from there in the tense battle that narrowly avoided a fight in the closing moments and saw one Crowley player earn a pair of yellow cards.
"It was crazy, it was a good, tough game all around," Chavarria said. "We didn't play good in the first half, but in the second half I felt like we dominated."