Liberty Hill’s first year ends short of State title for boys soccer
By Taylor Grafft
GEORGETOWN–The San Elizario Eagles scored two second-half goals to crush Liberty Hill’s state title hopes and end the Panthers’ historic first season of varsity soccer.
Liberty Hill’s senior midfielder Omar Perez was able to score a consolation goal in the 77th minute, but it was a little too late for the Panthers to make another playoff comeback that their supporters had become accustom to, losing 4-2.
“Even when we were down 4-1, we were able to put another goal back, which just shows our character,” Coach Darren Bauer said. “That’s a really good team over there and on this day (San Elizario) deserved it.”
While this was not how Liberty Hill wanted to end their season, there were still positives that Bauer and the Panther faithful can be proud of and look forward to.
The 10 seniors that made up the Panthers’ roster this season have set a strong foundation for the future of Liberty Hill soccer. That process started with their development in the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer leagues and finally came full circle Friday in Georgetown.
“We knew what we wanted to do and the traditions we wanted to set,” Bauer said in the post game. “And we’ve set it, plan and simple. We weren’t going to settle for anything less. If you want to play for Liberty Hill you better come here and work hard.”
“I’ll remember the guys,” Bauer said when asked how he’ll remember the season. “Forget the wins and the losses. I’ve enjoyed this year and getting to know the guys, especially the seniors. I’m looking forward to seeing their success in the future.”
The Eagles’ senior midfielder Francis Ruiz’ sliding shot in the box went off the inside of the left post and into the net to give his team a 3-1 lead at six minutes into the second half.
Ruiz earned the Finals Most Valuable Player award for his early second-half goal.
The Panthers nearly scored an own goal six minutes into the second half after conceding a corner. A Liberty Hill defender tried to clear the ball out of bounds, but accidently redirected the ball with his chest and towards goal, but fortunately it went off the crossbar before being cleared away.
The Panthers and Eagles played the state championship under ominous clouds in the first half, but midway through the second half there was a strike of lightning in the distance, which caused a delay with 21 minutes remaining.
After play resumed, about half of the Liberty Hill fans remained following the delay to stick out the weather and support their team to the final whistle.
“At Liberty Hill the fans support you no matter what,” Bauer said. “Rain, snow, sleet, they’ll come out and support. Every aspect of the school, athletics, academics, it doesn’t matter. The student body always supports everybody.”
San Elizario finished the match with eight shots on goal, while Liberty Hill only had four shots on target.
Liberty Hill senior Zach Zausch was injured in the 67th minute and had to leave the pitch.
After a relatively quiet first half, the match really came to life in the final two minutes before the break.
San Elizario’s Edwin Marquez opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a 15-yard strike that hit the inside of the post and ended up in the bottom left corner of Knight’s net.
San Elizario opened the first half by bringing pressure high up the pitch, which left the Eagles vulnerable to counter attacks. Liberty Hill took advantage several times in the opening 40 minutes, but only found the back of the net with time winding down.
The equalizer came with just over a minute left before halftime. Junior Felix Rusch kept the ball in play with an overhead kick back into the box. Junior Joseph Serio picked up the ball during the scramble in the box and unleashed a shot, but it hit off the crossbar. Senior Zach Zausch, who scored the game-winning goal in the state semifinal match on Wednesday, rushed the rebound and put it into the back of the net to even the score 1-1.
Thirty seconds later San Elizario re-took the lead off a set piece. Liberty Hill surrender a corner and senior San Elizario defender Abraham Escareno made the Panthers pay by getting on the end of the cross and headed it into the net for a 2-1 lead.
San Elizario ended the first half with five shots, while Liberty Hill finished with two.