Many Class 4A districts concluded regular-season play this week, while those remaining have one last game Friday. That means it’s time for the playoffs.
Here are teams and players to keep an eye on when the postseason begins next week:
Fort Worth South Hills boys
The Scorpions (13-1-3) are no strangers to the postseason, but haven’t had a lot of success moving deep into the playoffs. As district champions last season they were upended in the second round by Mansfield Lake Ridge. South Hills will again be the top seed from District 13-4A, and coach Steve Andrews feels like this is the most talented group he’s had at the school. “We’ve got more talent than we normally have,” Andrews said. “But sometimes we wig out mentally. The kids would love to go play in Wichita Falls [site of regional tournament] and see what happens. Whether we have the gas, I don’t know. We have the talent to play there.”
Player to watch: F Miguel Tamez. His combination of size and speed allows him to be a constant scoring threat.
The Yellow Jackets (13-3-4) made an undefeated but relatively quiet run through District 15-4A, finishing as champions with a 7-0-3 record. Along the way, Cleburne won the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD X-Town Shootout. The only losses came to Mansfield Lake Ridge, district champions of 16-4A; Red Oak; and defending 4A state champion Waco University. The Jackets are balanced offensively — 13 players have scored goals this season — and coach William Walker said his team won’t be overwhelmed by the playoffs, despite a relative lack of senior leadership. “There’s not a ton of playoff experience, but they don’t really get rattled by much. They just kind of step up to whatever the challenge is,” he said.
Player to watch: GK Mario Juarez. He allowed seven goals in 10 district games and posted seven shutouts this season.
Trophy Club Nelson girls
Two years removed from the state tournament and regional finalists a year ago, the Bobcats (16-2-5) are no strangers to the postseason. Coach Philip Salyer’s squad entered the season with some questions after a heavy turnover from graduation, but his younger group excelled and is once again battle tested, having negotiated a district that includes Birdville and last year’s 4A state champion Denton Guyer. “I think it’s kind of nice being young sometimes, because they don’t realize sometimes the extra pressures,” Salyer said. Despite their youth, the Bobcats are extremely talented but have enough experienced senior leadership that a return trip to state isn’t out of the question.
Player to watch: F Madison Hall. An Arkansas commit, she was recently named the NSCAA/TopDrawerSoccer.com High School Player of the Week. She has 23 goals and seven assists this season.
Mansfield Lake Ridge girls
After missing the playoffs last year in the program’s inaugural season, coach Kim Wallace also thought this would be a building year. To her surprise, the Eagles (19-4-1) started piling up wins en route to a second-place finish in District 16-4A (at 11-3). Lake Ridge fields as many as four freshmen among its starting 11.
Player to watch: Ashton Peeks. A scoring threat, Peeks has broken the 20-goal plateau this season, but she also creates chances, having assisted on 10 goals.