Time was starting to run out on the Arlington High boys soccer team.
The Colts were trailing 1-0 in their final nondistrict game on the road in the cold, and the South Grand Prairie defense was clogging passing lanes and limiting shot attempts. And then with seven minutes left, it happened. Senior Steven Chavez fired a swift through pass to fellow senior Reggie Gonzalez, who took full advantage of a little space in front of the net and banged home the tying goal.
Arlington settled for a 1-1 tie, but that draw allowed the Colts, who entered Tuesday night’s 3-5A opener against Martin with a 6-0-2 record, to make it through nondistrict play undefeated. Achieving that feat is just one of many lofty goals that the senior-led Colts have for this season.
“Hopefully, it’s going to be a special season,” said Gonzalez, who has six goals and three assists. “I feel it. All my teammates feel it. Hopefully, we go very far this year.”
Gonzalez, a four-year letterman, is one of three senior captains for Arlington. Co-captains Chavez and Hugo Loredo not only complement Gonzalez’s versatility as a passer and shotmaker, but they also help provide the strong leadership that 16th-year coach Jeff Waldrop concedes has sometimes been lacking from the senior group some seasons.
“With this core, I have four-year and three-year lettermen. And they’re natural leaders because the kids look up to them,” Waldrop said. “This year they’re taking a more assertive and vocal role in the leadership. And I’m proud of them for that. I’ve had some seniors in the past that weren’t very vocal and weren’t very good leaders. So far I like what I’m seeing.”
Waldrop had to like what he saw earlier this month when his team took four consecutive games, including the championship game against the host Warriors to win the Martin Invitational tournament. Winning the tourney and beating their crosstown rival in the process was one of those goals Gonzalez, Loredo and Chavez had it in mind to achieve.
“It felt pretty good winning, especially because it was Martin and was their tournament,” Loredo said.
It also felt good winning since it was in come-from-behind fashion. The Colts trailed 1-0 before getting goals from talented sophomore Victor Garcia and Gonzalez’s younger brother Andy in a 2-1 triumph. In addition to the Gonzalez brothers, Jesus and Luis Garcia give the Colts two pairs of siblings on varsity this season.
It isn’t a stretch to say the Colts have a family atmosphere on and off the field. Standing close to the action during a game lets an onlooker hear the Colts players shouting things constantly: instructions, encouragement and other sentiments in English — or a mix of English and Spanish. Gonzalez has made it his goal to lead with both words and deeds this season.
“My communication’s gotten better,” Gonzalez said. “I communicate with my team well now. As a leader I feel like I’m doing better at it.”
Loredo, who has played soccer with Gonzalez since the two were in fifth grade, agrees that communication is a major key to the Colts’ chances to win big this season, especially in a loaded district that includes Martin and defending champion Sam Houston. But Loredo wants to make sure the communication maintains a positive tone.
“The thing we need to do is stop arguing on the field,” Loredo said. “We just need to calm down. There’s no pressure. We’ve just got to relax — relax the ball, pass it around and look for the best option that we have.”
Waldrop wants his senior trio to take on the task of keeping the younger players focused and feeling relaxed even when the ball isn’t bouncing their way.
“That’s one of their jobs as senior leaders: to keep everybody calm,” Waldrop said. “Tell everybody not to get too high or too low and stay even keel and just let your talent take over.”
Once that talent takes over, Arlington could be quite a formidable opponent for any team in the district or the state to contend with. In the same breath that Gonzalez talks of the need for the Colts not to take any team lightly and to give 100-percent effort at all times, he also concedes that Arlington must — and should — get better at cashing in on makable scoring chances.
“We need to finish those,” Gonzalez said. “The more we finish, the better chance we have.”