By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
The ball left Tiffany Robinson’s foot and just took off, soaring higher and higher — soaring just like Navarro.
And when it slammed into the back of the net the crowd at Tiger Stadium broke out into a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You.’’
It was rollicking. It was fun. It was like a party broke out in the middle of a soccer match.
Welcome to the playoffs.
That’s what it felt like on Thursday night when Navarro opened the Region XIV playoffs with a 5-0 romp over Jacksonville. The top-ranked Bulldogs (13-2-1) looked like and played like the No. 1 team in the nation to start what they hope is a run to a national title.
It was fun on Thursday, but Navarro knows what lies ahead — No. 4-ranked Tyler in a rematch that promises to be drenched in tension and soaked in passion. That comes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Navarro, where the two rivals meet for the Region XIV championship. Navarro won 3-2 at Tyler earlier this season and the teams fought to a 1-1 tie last week. Tyler kept the date by slamming Paris 6-1 on Thursday.
“It will be a tough game on Sunday,’’ Navarro Coach Debbie Bonner said. “Both teams want it — and want it bad.’’
Navarro wanted this one, too, and took over in the second half.
If the Chinese proverb is true and every journey starts with a single step then that step probably belongs to Trudi Carter, who scored the first goal of the night to ignite Navarro. Carter’s goal came in the opening minutes of the second half, and it was if the dam broke.
“Yeah, the floodgates opened,’’ said Carter, who has led the Bulldogs in scoring all year. “After we got that first goal the pressure was off and we wanted to keep putting the pressure on them.’’
They did -— oh, how they did.
It was a clinic, one crisp pass after another, one push up the field after another, and one charge to the net after another.
It started with the Jamaican Connection, and a beauty of a goal as Shanice Foster darted to her right past the traffic and into the box and then dropped the ball in Carter’s lap just to her left. Carter came flying, slamming in a 1-0 lead.
Navarro had played with a gusty wind in its face the first half, but took the wind to its back, and even after the gusts had died, the Bulldogs came to life.
It took the Bulldogs 95 seconds to score in the second half, and the Jamaican Connection scored again six minutes later when the two Jamaican natives struck as once again Foster did the driving and dishing off and Carter came sailing to the open spot on the field and cashed in with her second goal with a stutter-step fake and go move, burying a shot into the right corner at 37:23.
Both goals were gems, mind-reading, no-look gems. That’s how well Carter and Foster know each other. They both grew up in soccer-crazy Kingston and fell in love with the sport early in life. They played for the same club team back home.
“We know each other so well,’’ Carter said. “We played club together in Jamaica. She knows where I’m going to be, and I know when she’s going to pass it to me. She knows when she sees me running and she knows when puts the ball (in the opening) that I’m going to get it.’’
It almost seemed unfair — that’s how well they play off each other.
Carter was happy about her two goals and what they meant to the team, but she was ecstatic when Foster scored her goal just 19 seconds after Carter’s second goal.
The goals were coming fast and furious at that point and Caroline Spurrier made a brilliant cross from deep on the right side to Foster, who knew just what to do with the ball as she gathered it in front of the net and then drove home her best chance of the year.
It was her first goal of the season.
“I was so happy when she scored,’’ Carter said. “I told her that she was going to get a goal and she did. It was great to see her score.’’
The Bulldogs tried to get everyone a goal with unselfish and timely passing that dominated he second half. The Bulldogs fired more than a dozen shots and Jacksonville didn’t have a single shot on goal in the final 45 minutes.
Spurrier had two highlight tape crosses to set up goals, first to Foster and then to Natalia Torres, who cut through traffic to take Spurrier’s pass from the right side, and nailed a 4-0 lead at the 33:07. That’s four goals in about 10 minutes. Bonner emptied the bench and everyone played. It was that kind of night, but it didn’t matter who was on the field, Navarro passed and cut and drove and created opportunities.
The last goal came in the final minute when Robinson blasted her shot from about 15 yards out from the right side. It was a nice birthday present, complete with song and laughter and lots of hugs.
It was a night fit for singing.
Because the team feared bad weather the game was moved at the last minute (Wednesday) from Navarro to Tiger Stadium, because of its turf and lights, and Bonner couldn’t have been more grateful.
“I just want to thank CISD and (Corsicana High Director of extra-curricular activities) Billy Harlan for the way they threw things together for us. It was a great community effort.’’
She could have said the same about her team. They played like a community effort.
“They tried to get everyone a goal,’’ she said of her team. “They were very unselfish.’’
Navarro did look like the No. 1 team in the nation in a playoff game that all but defined this team.
“I don’t know if its who we are,’’ Bonner said. “It’s what we are striving to be.’’
It was a showcase in the second half.
“They played really well,’’ Bonner said. The passing, the spacing.’’ Then she stopped and caught her breath and thought about that second half. “Just the passing,’’ she said. “The passing was ... on point.’’
Just like Navarro.