GEORGETOWN – The celebration is on, Kilgore: your Kilgore Bulldogs are the new UIL Class 4A state soccer champions.
Kilgore, a four-time state qualifier, finally broke through to win the title on Friday here at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field, beating Bridgeport, a second-year program, in penalty kicks after the regulation period and overtime period ended with the teams tied at two.
Kilgore (21-5-2 on the season) claimed the championship by beating Bridgeport, 4-2, in penalty kicks.
Although Kilgore High School athletics has sent several individuals to the state track meet and to tennis in recent years, this is the school’s first state team title since the Bulldogs’ football program went 16-0 to win the 4A Division II state championship back in 2004.
And it certainly wasn’t easy.
The Bulldogs defeated Houston Washington, 4-0, on Wednesday in the state semifinals, but lost captain David Garcia to a leg injury in the process.
They advanced to the title game on Friday, where Bridgeport, who beat Progreso in the semis, awaited.
KIlgore flexed its muscle early in the first half, going up 2-0.
Wanya McIntyre put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with just over nine minutes off the clock, off an assist by Jovany Gonzalez, and then Elian Torres scored another for the ‘Dogs with 27:16 left.
The next two belonged to upstart Bridgeport: one on a penalty kick by Miguel Olmos with 14:06 left in the half, and the other on a breakaway goal with 10:59 left in the half by Juan Amador.
Neither team scored again in the half.
The second half was nothing but drama – a near-miss by Kilgore’s Raul Cedillo brought the crowd to its feet with 25 minutes left, and Yoni Contreras scored for the Bulldogs with 19 minutes left, but was flagged for being offsides, nullifying the goal.
Contreras had two more near-misses within a minute of each other at the 16-15 minute mark. Bridgeport fans had the same thing happen, an apparent goal with eight minutes left, but was also ruled offsides.
Bridgeport’s final shot was hauled in by Kilgore keeper Kaleb Jett with just seven seconds left, sending the game to the overtime period.
Neither team would score, although McIntyre looked to have a sure score with 3 ½ minutes left, but was denied – barely – by Bridgeport’s Eric Aguilar. The game moved to penalty kicks.
Amador put Bridgeport up, 1-0, and then Contreras tied it at 1-all for the Bulldogs.
Javier Huerta put the Bulls up again, 2-1, but Torres tied it at 2.
Finally, the Bulldogs got the break they needed, and Jett made it happen. Bridgeport’s Jose Martinez missed, the ball snagged by Jett.
Kilgore’s Jesus Gonzalez then scored, giving KHS the 3-2 lead. Jett saved another, and Raul Cedillo buried the ball in the net, sealing the win for the Bulldogs, as the sideline, and Kilgore’s large crowd, went crazy. Head coach Austin Walker embraced his players as they mobbed one another in a big pile in the end zone where the penalty kick/shootout occurred.
Jett was named the 4A boys tournament most valuable player as the Bulldogs were presented with individual medals and the state title trophy.
Kilgore, of course, has turned a small-town program success story.
Fed by a strong youth soccer program (Kilgore Soccer Association), and with tremendous community support and passion, the Bulldogs became a playoff regular, upped it a notch under former coach Whitney Keeling, and then got to the state tournament for the first time back in 2011, with Michael Bradshaw as head coach.
The playoff run continued under Aaron Erickson, and then Walker, assisted by Mark Roskos, has turned it up to another level. Under Walker, the ‘Dogs have made the state tournament three straight years. No other program in UIL soccer can make that claim.
And now they have a state championship to prove it.
Members of the Bulldogs’ 2017 team are keepers Kaleb Jett and Jackson Hatcher, Brandon Espinoza, Jordi Contreras, Diego Huerta, Wayna McIntyre, Jose Gonzalez, David Garcia, Jose Arrendondo, Yoni Contreras, Jesus Gonzalez, Jovany Gonzalez, Noe Zavaleta, Raul Cedillo, Jaime Veloz, Elian Torres, Mateo Meraz, Daniel Sifford, and Tucker Konczak.
Yoni Contreras, Jesus Gonzalez, Zavelta, Veloz, Meraz, Espinoza, Jose Gonzalez, Garcia, Arrendondo, and Hatcher are all seniors.
Darrell “Red” Ganus is the athletic trainer for KHS. Student managers-trainers for soccer are Carlos Godoy, Brandon Mayers and Josue Reyes.