By Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
It was pretty simple for the McKinney Lions boys soccer team Monday night:
Win and a playoff spot is yours.
After a grueling and very physical 80 minutes between the Lions and their crosstown rival McKinney North, McKinney locked up its playoff berth with a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs and continued on its path to a District 17-4A championship in 2012.
In the 71st minute with the score 1-1, the Lions had an attack going in the Bulldogs zone that looked to be promising from the start. After the ball was kicked out to the side by a North defender, McKinney had a throw in near the corner. With the help of a tremendous ball, Lions junior Sean Townsend sent a header from the short side of the box back towards the middle of the pitch, where sophomore Jason Horvath decided to try a move he doesn’t show off very often.
“When I got in the box I saw it, and usually I don’t try a little flick, but I tried something and it worked so I was happy about that,” said Horvath after the game.
North would not get another scoring opportunity for the remainder of the match, and in front of a rather quiet crowd on a chilly Monday night, the Lions took the final Crosstown Showdown game of the season, sweeping the season series after a 3-0 win on February 10th at North.
After a scoreless first half that saw MHS dominate in scoring opportunities, the Lions began the scoring with a gorgeous header in the 46th minute by junior Gerson Mendoza with the assist from senior Jordan Hawkins.
However, McKinney’s lead didn’t last long as the Bulldogs were able to finally get a quality possession and scoring look, and they capitalized in the 62nd minute off a short kick by sophomore Juan Grimaldo to tie the game up at 1-1.
Lions fans may have been taken aback for a second on what it felt like to be tied this late in a match, considering the team hasn’t allowed a single goal since facing Denison on February 7th. Instead of panicking and trying to do too much, McKinney High’s head coach Alan Pocock was proud of the way his team found success in a stressful situation.
“It was good to have a gut-check game where there was a scenario to see how are we going to respond to this [tied game late],” Pocock said. “And now that we have playoffs locked in, our sights are on a district championship. But along the way we want to know that we are successfully experiencing different scenarios, like coming from behind.”
While the game may have started off slow in the first half, the physicality on both teams picked up in the second half where fouls were being called back and forth, including a yellow card being given to a player on each team. Bulldogs senior midfielder Jacob Diaz was given a yellow card in the 50th minute after a hard push to a Lion defender, while McKinney’s Hawkins was given a yellow in the 68th after a hard slide tackle.
Horvath spoke about the chipiness after the match, saying he gets physical only when he is provoked.
“Usually if they start getting physical then I’ll start getting physical; but if they’re laid back then I’ll just kind of go,” Horvath said.
The Lions (13-2-3 overall, 9-0-0 in District 17-4A) feel good after sealing up a playoff spot but have already set their eyes on a much bigger prize.
“I think we can go undefeated the rest of district and go into playoffs strong, and hopefully make it pretty far and see what happens,” said Horvath.
“With the three games we have left I really want to see if they can rise to the challenge of trying to wrap up a district championship undefeated,” said Pocock regarding his teams goals for the remainder of the regular season. “I’m grateful for our position now; I just want to make sure we can close it out without any surprises and just carry to squad into the playoffs.”
McKinney North (8-7-0 overall, 5-3-0 in District 17-4A) is still sitting in a prime position to make it to the postseason in 2012 despite falling to third place with the Little Elm 1-0 win over Prosper Monday night.
For the numerous seniors on the pitch Monday night it would be the final time to suit up and play in the Crosstown Showdown, a game that doesn’t really need any extra motivation to get up and excited for as a player, coach, or fan.
“In a crosstown game, it doesn’t matter if it’s first place, second place, or the two last place teams; it’s going to be emotionally charged,” said Pocock after a seventh-straight season sweep of the Bulldogs for the McKinney Lions.
McKinney High travels to up north to face Sherman High School Friday night. Game time is approximately 7:15 p.m. McKinney North will attempt to rebound from Monday’s loss when they host Anna on Friday night. Game time is approximately 7:15 p.m. as well.