LUBBOCK - Stephenville dominated the pace of play and took advantage of a fierce wind to score two first half goals in a 2-1 sectional playoff win over Canyon Randall at Lowrey Field Friday afternoon.
“It wasn’t just the wind, we’re the better team,” said Stephenville head coach Ramsay Wright. “I told the guys we should get at least one more (goal), because we really were in control most of the way.”
All three goals in the contest came when teams had the wind - which was 35 miles per hour with gusts measuring up to 53 mph - at their backs.
Mason Taylor continued adding to his school-record goal count, scoring for the 36th time this season with 24:01 left in the opening half. He was assisted by German Chavarria.
It took just more than seven minutes for the Jackets to find the back of the net again.
A Randall defender was trying to clear the ball out from in front off the Raiders’ goal, but Blake Barnes was having none of it, stepping in front of the defender and blasting a low shot past the unsuspecting keeper for a 2-0 Stephenville lead.
The two goals didn’t come until Wright called for a change in alignment to bolster the Jackets’ attack.
“We’ve gone with one forward (Taylor) for a long time, but with the wind, I thought it was important to attack in the first half,” Wright said. “We put two forwards up there and that helped us generate more offense.”
The 2-0 lead stood until halftime, when the Jackets had to give up the wind advantage.
“We would have felt safer if it would have been 3-0,” said junior fullback Micah Muir, one of the defenders who played a key role in helping Stephenville preserve the lead in the second half.
The Jackets certainly had their chances for a third goal, perhaps even more.
Taylor banged two shots off the crossbar - one in each half - and had another sail just high of the goal. Chavarria also missed upstairs in the early going.
A two-goal lead proved to be just enough, however, as Canyon failed to muster many good scoring opportunities in the second half, even with the south-southwest wind blowing at its back.
The wind did aid the Raiders’ only goal, which came off a free kick from 40 yards out.
“They got it up in the wind and it came down at the right place,” Wright said of the Randall goal, which made it 2-1 with 8:39 remaining.
Other than that, Stephenville dominated in the back and in the midfield to keep Randall at bay.
The Raiders put one header on goal, but Lingle made the save. Another opportunity looked good for Randall, but Muir thwarted an attacking forward in a one-on-one situation deep in the box with five minutes left.
The Raiders’ only other chance in the closing minutes came on a free kick with 2:10 left, but the ball sailed wide of everyone and Stephenville was able to get the final clear out it needed to hold on.
The Jackets advance to the regional quarterfinals for the second straight year. They face El Paso Parkland at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland.
Parkland upset El Paso Austin Friday night, winning a shootout after a 0-0 tie in regulation. Austin out-shot Parkland 18-7 in regulation.
The winner Tuesday advances to the semifinal round of the regional tournament next weekend in Wichita Falls, somewhere Stephenville has never gone with its boys soccer program.
Muir believes the Jackets have what it takes to get there.
“Absolutely we think we can get there,” he said. “We have a great team. We’re playing good defense and we have a good attacking forward (Taylor) and a good attacking midfielder (Chavarria).”
Wright agrees with his junior defender.
“We were on a roll at the end of the season and spring break kind of slowed our momentum down,” he said. “We were just trying to survive against Canyon (in the area round), but I think we’re rolling again now.”