By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
With the wind in their faces and their backs to the wall, Corsicana’s Tigers boys soccer team came back Tuesday, came back to survive.
That may not be the best way to describe the 1-1 tie forged between the Tigers and Red Oak at Tiger Stadium Tuesday evening, but it will have to do for now.
For now is all that matters.
“The main thing is we are still in the mix,’’ said Corsicana Coach Stan Jones, whose team needed to come back to have a chance at winning a title.
The Tigers (5-2-2) entered the game in a three-way tie for first place in the District 16-4A race with Red Oak and Ennis, a couple of perennial soccer powers. It’s the final week of the regular season and the Tigers met Red Oak on Tuesday and will face Ennis at home in the finale at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. They still have a chance to win the district title, but a loss on Tuesday would have all but ended any hope.
“We couldn’t lose,’’ Jones said. “We couldn’t lose this game, but we didn’t and we have a chance to win it if we beat Ennis on Friday.’’
They had their chances late in Tuesday’s game but two excruciating shots left the Tigers stunned and short and left Red Oak celebrating the tie. They came just-this-close to winning with not one but two would-be game winning shots in the final minutes, just 45 seconds apart.
Michael Roman, who scored Corsicana’s goal to knot things at 1-1 with 15:09 left, was tackled in the box and had a penalty kick with 2:15 left. But his shot betrayed him, sliding off to the left to keep Red Oak in the game. Then, just seconds later, Roman, who had a remarkable game, sent a perfect cross ahead of Miguel Hernandez, who out-raced Red Oak to the ball and ripped home what looked to be the winning goal. But at the last second the ball took off with a little extra lift and slammed off the crossbar with 1:30 left in the game.
It was just that close.
“I think the ball was kind of lifted up by the wind and it hit the crossbar,’’ Hernandez said.
The Tigers knew a loss would kill all hope, and hope was fading fast in the second half when Red Oak took a 1-0 lead on Marcus Gonzales’ goal with 32 minutes left in the game. It wasn’t Gonzales’ goal that hurt (although it surely did), it was the fact the Tigers were down 1-0 and facing a blustering wind that seemed to give the team defending the wind-aided goal an extra man.
Corsicana had the wind in the first half and dominated play, but there are no style points in soccer, and despite creating havoc and keeping the ball on their end of the field for almost the entire first half, the Tigers, wo hustled all night and seem to beat Red Oak to almost every loose ball, couldn’t stick one in the back of the net.
Red Oak had only one shot on goal in the first half, but quickly went to work with the win to its back. Corsicana’s goal keeper Laine Hildebrand made three solid saves early in the second half, but Gonzales was able to find a loose ball in the box and send it into the top right corner for a 1-0 lead.
“It was just a loose ball and he got it,’’ said Roman, who was sniffling after the game from an ongoing cold he has been playing through of late. The Tigers had some injuries and weren’t at full strength, but that didn’t matter They still came back against the wind and the odds to tie the score on Roman’s free kick that found a sweet spot in the lower left corner of the net.
“It was exhilarating,’’ Roman said of his 15th goal of the season. “It was the best feeling ever.’’
He went from an all-time high to an all-time low when his shot with 2:15 left — a shot he was planning on putting in the same lefthand corner as his earlier goal, skipped wide left.
“I felt confident,’’ Roman said. “I stepped up to the line and felt good about taking the shot. I disappointed myself for not making it.’’
The Tigers still might make it to title-time. It’s up to them and what happens against Ennis.
“We have to be ready for Ennis,’’ Roman said. “I think we out-played (Red Oak) today, but we didn’t get the win.’’
Hernandez quickly added: “I think we played with more heart than they did. We have to keep working hard, and work even harder against Ennis.’’
That’s Jones’ plan for Friday’s game.
“All in all, I am really proud of them,’’ he said. “The fight they had to come back. We have been seeing more character on this team. We just have to finish it off. Our big thing that we talk about all the time is the work and the pain they have from doing all that work. We’re built on hard work. The pain of a loss is a lot greater than the pain that comes with working hard. We knew we couldn’t lose, and we didn’t.
“We’re still in it and we still control our destiny. That’s all you want.’’
Red Oak 1, Corsicana 0
Red Oak (8-0-1 in District 16-4A) scored on a late corner kick to beat the Tigers (4-4-1) who have already clinched a playoff spot.
“We’re playing at a very high calibre,’’ Jones said of his girls team. “We played Red Oak much better this time and we came off of spring break playing well and looking rested.’
“The beat us on one corner kick, but we played well.’’