Skeeter Pride Boys Soccer - 2018 AREA CHAMPIONS

Skeeter Pride Boys Soccer - 2018 AREA CHAMPIONS

STORY BY: Devin Hasson @ Star Local Media

Mesquite has spent the last several weeks building to this moment.

The Skeeters won their final four district matches to capture the outright 11-6A championship and followed that up with a 3-0 win over Lufkin in their playoff opener last Friday.

That momentum has carried over, as they returned to the field on Tuesday with another strong overall performance, as they scored twice in the first half and never let Naaman Forest get untracked en route to a 2-0 victory in a Class 6A area round playoff game at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.

Mesquite (16-6-1) will take on Coppell, a 3-0 winner over The Woodlands, in the regional quarterfinals in a match tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Wildcat-Ram Stadium in Richardson.

“I’m very pleased … it has been a different guy who steps up every single night,” Mesquite head coach Tony Bowles said. “They know they are going to be out there for a certain amount of time before I sub them out, so I think everybody grinds when they are out there, everybody wants to make an impact and it also keeps us fit and that’s why we were able to kind of wear down a very good Naaman Forest team tonight.”

The Skeeters had a strong wind at their back in the opening half and they took advantage.

In the 10th minute, Kenneth Williams picked a good time for his first goal of the season, lifting a shot from nearly 50 yards out that sailed over the outstretched arms of the Ranger keeper to give them a 1-0 lead.

Mesquite tried to build on that advantage and had several close calls, including another long shot by Williams and a header by Kevin Parra that both rang off the crossbar, as well as a couple of good attempts from Kevin Salazar.

The Skeeters finally padded their cushion in the 33rd minute, as Eduardo Sanchez corralled a loose ball, made a great move past a defender to free some space and fired a 32-yard rocket that hit the bottom of the crossbar and landed in the back of the net to make it 2-0.

It was not only big on the scoreboard, but also in the team’s psyche heading to the second half with Naaman Forest having the wind at its back.

“It was huge; having the second goal allows you to stay calm and let them come to you,” Bowles said. “They’ve got three dominant scorers over there and they are pressing to score, but they weren’t getting the opportunities and that is a testament to our defensive effort.”

The Rangers did have more chances in the second half, but many of their free kicks sailed harmlessly off-track and when they did try to move in closer, keeper Alexis Ibarra made a few nice saves and the Skeeter defense, led by Cristian Gomez, Carlos Pina, Williams and Anthony Garcia, among others, thwarted those attempts.

Mesquite, meanwhile, did not rest on its laurels, as they pushed their attack into the wind with several good opportunities. Led by Sanchez in the midfield, who Bowles called the “best player in the second half,” the Skeeters were not able to add to their lead, but they did control possession enough to further limit Naaman Forest. 

“It is a total team effort. Our defense has been good throughout the season. The guys understand what we want to do and there is a lot of pride there and getting those shutouts,” Bowles said. “And we also talked about it at halftime that we were not going to sit back. That 2-0 is not a victory at halftime and we stayed settled down and when they came at us, we used our team speed. If teams are going to attack us, they better be ready to get back.”

Mesquite’s next opponents is one of the most tradition-rich in the state with Coppell, who has won three state championships, most recently in 2016.

The Skeeters are not going to be intimidated, though, as they view the Cowboys, not as the favorite, but as they type of program they hope to be in the near future.

“We have a reputation we are trying to build when I took over four years ago. This senior class is the first group to make the playoffs four years in a row, so there is a high expectation level,” Bowles said. “We talk about it. This is Mesquite, we can play soccer and we’re good, so I think these guys kind of play with a chip on their shoulder. We really don’t care who it is because have played the best teams in the state and we know we can compete with them. We’re excited for the opportunity and really blessed to have the opportunity. We’re going to put together a game plan and come out and play our best.”

Skeeter Pride - Est. 1901