There could have been no better time for Stephenville High School’s boys soccer team to bounce back from a disappointing District 6-4A outing than last Friday night against Brownwood — and they did.
Coach Taylor Smith’s Yellow Jackets shut out the rival Lions 5-0 at Lem Brock Field, picking up three goals from junior J.J. Saldana and two from senior Jorge Gallegos
The Jackets were eager to make up for their district-opening road loss at Mineral Wells a week earlier. That game was tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation, but the Rams pulled it out on penalty kicks in a shootout.
“We played loads better,” said Smith, noting that the Jackets played “patient and under control” Friday, controlling possession of the ball. We were able to pass the ball and direct the tempo. We controlled every aspect of the game.
“We’re finding our identity. We know how good we are. We played our game and we played controlled.”
The win improved Stephenville’s season record to 11-6-2 overall, and 1-1 in district. The next game for the Yellow Jackets was scheduled to be at home Tuesday (Feb. 25), against Mineral Wells (varsity boys at 7 p.m.). The soccer district includes only three teams — SHS, Brownwood and Mineral Wells — and all three will be in the playoffs.
Against Brownwood, the Jackets built a 3-0 lead by halftime before adding their final two goals after intermission.
The three goals for J.J. Saldana — a top scorer for the team even last year as a sophomore — marked the first time he had ever scored three times in one game, a feat known as a “hat trick.”
More importantly for Saldana was that the Jackets played better as a team, at a level he called, “remarkable,” as they picked up their first district win of the season.
“I’m happy because we did a great job,” Saldana said. “That was my first hat trick. I’ve been scoring goals, but I couldn’t get a hat trick.”
Gallegos recorded assists on all three of Saldana’s goals. Saldana returned the favor, with assists on both goals Gallegos had.
After road games March 3 at Brownwood and March 6 at Mineral Wells, both the SHS boys and girls teams will have their final home game of the regular season on March 13, against Brownwood, before the playoffs start.