ROYSE CITY — After being eliminated by Highland Park in overtime the last two postseasons, Sulphur Springs finally got over the hump.
The Wildcats held off a late charge by the Scots to come away with a 2-1 victory in a Class 4A sectional playoff on Friday night. The loss ended Highland Park’s season at 10-7-6, while Sulphur Springs (20-3-5) advances to take on Mesquite Poteet in the regional quarterfinals next week.
“They played good, like they always play,” Scots head coach Randy Allen said of Sulphur Springs. “They are hard-working and good skill players. I don’t think we underestimated them at all. I talked to their coach [Andy Holt] before the game, and I’ve been in his situation. When you’re not a school from Dallas, people think you’re not very good; it doesn’t matter how many games you win. They had something to prove because we’ve knocked them out the last few years. We played hard and played a good game. We had more chances than they did to score. It just wasn’t our night.”
The Wildcats set the tone early by scoring on a beautiful crossing pass Tony Bravo booted past Scots keeper Connor Hayward a mere 1:06 into the contest. That one-goal advantage still stood at halftime. And after Bravo had another goal waved off, he found the net again on a penalty kick in the 63rd minute to give Sulphur Springs a 2-0 lead. A little less than two minutes later, Will Sanders breathed new life into the Scots by scoring on a header that came off a corner kick.
“Once they scored, it was tough getting back in the game,” Sanders said. “We finally did, but they were already up one. We felt like there wasn’t enough time to get back into it. We had possession the whole end of the second half. We had a lot of chances and just couldn’t put them in. This team [Highland Park] bonds in playoffs and comes together, I’ve never seen such passion.”
After making a run to last year’s regional quarterfinals, the Scots got hot again in the postseason. Heading into the Sulphur Springs match, Highland Park had out-scored its first two playoff opponents by a combined total of 8-1. But a highly motivated Sulphur Springs team was too much to overcome.
“The guys stayed organized and calm even though we gave up that early goal,” Allen said. “We had a little time of losing our cool with each other, but the guys responded real well in the second half. They played with more passion and intensity than I’ve every seen them play with. I’m proud of them. I’m happy with the seniors — especially the captains. They’ve just been a great example for the rest of the kids.”