After winning the boys championship in the 17th annual Knights of Columbus Challenge of Champions soccer tournament Saturday at the Stephenville Youth Soccer Complex, first-year head coach Taylor Smith told his Stephenville Yellow Jackets that they can go as far as they want to go this season.
The Yellow Jackets finished regulation in the title game Saturday afternoon in a 1-1 tie with Class 5A Joshua. The Jackets came through with the victory in sudden death when goal keeper Alfredo Rocha made his second penalty kick save to end it and became the center of an emotional on-field celebration.
Luis Carrillo had scored the lone goal in regulation for SHS, and Eliut Reyes, Ivan Cabrera and Hunter Melton made goals in the sudden death.
SHS had opened the two-day tournament Friday morning with a 3-0 win over Class 4A China Spring before making a statement by downing 2017 Class 4A state finalist Bridgeport 2-1 that afternoon.
The Jackets started Saturday’s two pool play games by losing to Class 5A Saginaw, 5-1, but bounced back in a noon contest to beat Waco La Vega, 1-0, to set up the title match against Joshua.
“When we play ‘up’ to our opponents, I don’t think there is a better team in the state than us,” Smith said. “This shows the heart of the team, never quitting. They’re not going to back down. As soon as it went into penalty kicks, I told them I had confidence they were going to win. I told them I like where we’re at, and I knew what the outcome was going to be.
“We showed a lot of heart. We got beat 5-1, and to come back shows heart and character. We turned it around, and did some soul searching, and I’m extremely proud of the way the guys responded.”
The last time the SHS boys won the tournament was in 2016. The Jackets are now 6-3 on the season
Rocha, a junior, said the Jackets were determined to win, propelled in part by their loss in a recent tournament.
“I had a bitter taste in my mouth from the Burkburnett tournament,” Rocha said. “We just pushed through. It’s just great. I’m just speechless over it.
“I’m pretty sure we can go far with our new coach. He has pushed us. He’s great. He has flipped our program around.”
In the opening win over China Spring, Stephenville got two goals from Melton and one goal and one asssist by Kevin Martinez.
The two goals for SHS in the showdown with Bridgeport were recorded by Logan Kirk and Carrillo.
Eliut Reyes notched the only goal in the win over La Vega.
Next for the Jackets will be Friday in a non-district contest at Springtown.