The 2018 Stephenville High School boys soccer squad was a young group guided by a young, first-year head coach — yet ended up performing like seasoned veterans.
The Yellow Jackets, who earned the No. 1 playoff seeding out of District 4-4A, saw their season come to an end Friday with a 4-1 loss to Bridgeport in the Region I-4A quarterfinals. That snapped their eight-game win streak, and they were just one win shy of reaching the regional tournament. They finished with a 19-8 season mark.
The Jackets will lose four seniors — Hunter Melton, A.J. Brown, Ivan Cabrera and Raul Rodridguez — to graduation. Cabrera and Melton were among the leading scorers and helpd formed a solid foundation to start with as Taylor Smith took over the program, in his first-ever job as a coach.
The returnees will include standout goal keeper Alfredo Rocha, along with some of the team’s leading performers across the field, including Jorge Gallegos, Eliut Reyes, J.J. Sandana, Luis Carrillo and Kevin Martinez.
“I’m proud of all the things we accomplished this season," Smith said. “We made it further than many expected.
“Now we are going to turn our attention to next year and focus on building on the momentum from a strong season and keep working on that next level.”
Bridgeport (20-3-1), a team the Jackets defeated early this season in a tournament in Stephenville, will play Midlothian Heritage at 4 p.m. Friday in the regional tournament in North Richland Hills against Midlothian Heritage (22-5-1).
The lone goal for the Jackets was made by Gallegos, at the 20-minute mark in the second half.
Gallegos, who led the team in scoring early this season, was finally able to return to action against Bridgeport after having to sit out several games as he recovered from an eye injury. But Cabrera went down with a leg injury during the first-round playoff win over Burkburnett, and that turned out to be a big loss.
“We played hard, didn’t quit,” Smith said. “They were a good team. We knew going in we would have to play our best game but I think with Ivan’s injury, they were better than us. We had chances but missed a few scoring opportunities of our own, which would have changed the game. But hats off to Bridgeport, they earned it.”
Under previous head boys coach Chayden Feist, the 2017 Jackets had reached the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round by Wichita Falls Hirschi.