The final playoff spot was up for grabs in District 4-5A when the regular season came down to its final day of competition in boys soccer.
Central came away the winner and Timber Creek ended up as the odd man out.
Fossil Ridge needed a win by Keller over Richland and a win over Timber Creek to claim the district title, but what the Panthers got was a tie with Timber Creek and a win by Richland over the Indians.
That left Richland as the district champ, Ridge in second, Carroll third, the Chargers in fourth and Timber Creek in fifth and just out of the postseason. Keller was sixth.
Friday, the bi-district round of the playoffs commence with Fossil Ridge taking on Arlington Lamar and Central playing Arlington Martin.
It was Central that managed to climb the higher mountain.
The Chargers came out of the first round of district games in sixth place, scoring just eight standing points. They finished the second round of district play with 14 points and improved their standing to fourth place.
“We made some good strides in the second round and we were fortunate to get to the playoffs,” said Central’s first-year head coach, Aaron Cottrell.
Cottrell said the slow start to district was likely due in part to the Chargers having to get to know him and his system while also finding chemistry and team composition.
“It took a while to get used to my style,” Cottrell added. “They bought in and we changed a few formations and everything came together.”
With a team in transition at the outset, Cottrell heaped praise on his captains and seniors who stepped up in terms of leadership and making a difference in the second go-round of district play.
Now, in the playoffs, Central has a true barometer of how much the team has progressed as they match up with their first opponent of the season in Martin.
Martin beat Central in the season opener, 3-0, in what was also the worst loss for Central during the year.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge and see how much we’ve improved,” Cottrell said. “Our starting lineup is completely different and we’ve improved so much as a team. It seems like two or three seasons ago that we played (Martin).”
Central ended its district record at 6-4-4 while boosting its overall mark to 10-6-5.
Cottrell is no stranger to the playoffs, although it’s his first year at Central. Cottrell had been at Mansfield Legacy since the school opened and took the Broncos to the playoffs four years, including appearances in the state semifinals and regional finals. His playoff record stands at 12-4.
The Chargers will now focus on meeting the intensity of the playoffs and learning to compete in big games.
The meeting with Martin is at 8 p.m. at Pennington Field.• After Fossil Ridge managed a 2-2 draw with Carroll last Tuesday, the Panthers were still poised to claim the district title.
The Panthers were fortunate to forge a 1-1 tie with Timber Creek on Friday and combined with Richland’s 2-0 win over Keller, Ridge settled for the second seed out of the district.
Even if it had lost to Timber Creek, Fossil Ridge was destined for second place due to the Richland win.
“We’ll just keep playing like we have all season,” said Panthers head coach James Moore. “We’re still back to the same old, same old of worrying about what is up next. We’ll get a little more practice time in and get our legs under us.”
With a win on Friday, Ridge would then likely travel to West Texas the next Thursday or Friday, depending on the El Paso and Midland/Odessa bi-district outcome.
“We’re just ready to start the next chapter of the season,” Moore said.