HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER / UIL CLASS 4A SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Fourth time's the charm?

Kilgore Bulldogs headed to fourth state tourney in eight years; will face Houston Washington today in Georgetown

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It can now be said without doubt, and without bias: Kilgore High School’s boys soccer program is the dominant program in this part of the state.

And now it’s time to set it in stone.

The Kilgore Bulldogs, coached by Austin Walker, are headed back to the University Interscholastic League (UIL) state soccer tournament, competing with three other teams for the Class 4A state championship.

The Bulldogs – 20-5-2 on the season to date – play today at 4 p.m. against Houston Washington in the state semifinals. The entire tournament is played, as usual, at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Stadium.

The loser of today’s game goes home, period. The winner, however, advances to the 4A boys state championship game on Friday at 2:30 p.m., again at Birkelbach.

Kilgore has been on both sides of the fence: in 2010, the ‘Dogs advanced to the title game, only to lose it to Boerne Champion. In Kilgore’s last two trips, including a year ago, the ‘Dogs have been defeated in the state semifinals.

This time is much like the other three trips to state – Kilgore has been dominant, just dominant, not only in their own district, but in the playoffs. Their closest game to date was Saturday’s UIL Region 2 championship game against a Ranchview team that just wouldn’t go away, a physical contest that Kilgore finally won, 4-3.

The day before, Kilgore defeated another Dallas-area program, A-Plus Academy.

Tickets are $7 per game for students, $12 per game for adults, and there are also tournament passes available (admission to the entire tournament for $30 per person).

There are no parking fees on Wednesday, or Thursday. But there is a $5 parking fee on Friday and Saturday (5A and 6A championship games are played on Saturday).

Anyone who can’t go but would like to watch the tournament online, live streaming, can do so at nfhsnetwork.com/associations.uil. There is a fee.

To qualify for the trip back to state, the Bulldogs first had to win the Region 2 tournament, played in its entirety last weekend at Rose Stadium in Tyler. Kilgore beat A-Plus Academy in the first game on Friday afternoon, and then on Saturday faced Ranchview, a first-year program, incredibly, that had great success in the playoffs this year.

Kilgore served notice early that they would be the pace-setter.

The Bulldogs got the first goal onto the board, Wayna McIntyre punched it in with less than four minutes off the first-half clock (36:18).

Kilgore had several first-half shots on goal, including a near miss by Elian Torres with 20:30 left in the half. Kilgore led at halftime, 1-0.

Ranchview’s David Rodriguez -- who would go on to have a big day -- appeared to have scored with 37:50 left in the game, but was called offsides.

He did score four minutes later, tying the game at 1-all.

Torres punched right back almost immediately for Kilgore, scoring just a minute and a half after Rodriguez to put Kilgore back in front, 2-1.

Torres struck again with 26:55 left, and Kilgore led 3-1, and appeared to be pulling away. Yoni Contreras chipped in a goal with 23:51 left and it looked like the Bulldogs were off to Georgetown.

Irving, though, wouldn’t go away, specifically Rodriguez, who scored with 23:30 left -- just 21 seconds after Contreras -- to pull the Wolves within two, and then scored again with 13:10 left to make it 4-3.

Kilgore, though, wouldn’t be denied, and managed to run out the clock -- Ranchview never really threatened again.

Kilgore’s opponent today was supposed to be Houston Wheatley, but the UIL ruled Tuesday afternoon that Wheatley had played an ineligible player last weekend in the regional tournament. Houston Washington has taken Wheatley's spot in today's state semifinal, by UIL rules. Kilgore was informed of the change just after it happened on Tuesday.

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