Byron Nelson’s boys soccer program doesn’t have a long history, of course. But in its history, there have been solid seasons that ended with premature playoff exits.
But not in 2014. Once the Bobcats survived their sectional playoff victory at Wichita Falls (2-1), this team seemed to play with more confidence. The Bobcats will be joining the girls soccer program at the Class 4A state tournament Friday in Georgetown.
They rolled through the Region I tournament with a 4-1 victory over Amarillo in the Region I semifinal followed by a 5-2 victory over El Paso Andress – and it wasn’t even that close – in the regional championship game at Wichita Falls’ Memorial Stadium. At 26-1-2, the Bobcats are the No. 1 seed going into the tournament and will face Frisco Wakeland at 4 p.m. Friday at Georgetown ISD’s Birkelbach Field. The state championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday. This is Nelson’s first appearance in the state tournament.
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Nelson started quickly against Andress, scoring four goals in a 12- minute span. The squad added a fifth in the second half before surrendering two goals well after the outcome had been decided. Tanner Burns, Devin Porter, John Kouam, Ryan Dandad and Hunter McGuire all scored.
“The guys just seemed real focused,” Nelson coach Howard Putter said. “Everybody knew they were there for a season. And that was to win. I also think they had a little more energy too, because they just saw the girls play and win before them. They just wanted to keep moving with the girls and get to state.”
Euphoria will be at an all-time high. Putter and his staff know they must use this week as a means to reset and put a game plan together for Wakeland. The Bobcats don’t want to relax just because they made it. That isn’t the standard. Plus, this team is completely healthy.
“This group is pretty good but we also have a lot of options,” Putter said. “We’ve had the ability to force people to adjust to our style. We’ve just been playing really well offensively. We’ve been playing balls to the right spot. And we’ve capitalized on scoring chances.”
In Nelson’s six playoff victories – 4A has six rounds before the state tournament while 5A has five – this program has scored 21 goals and surrendered only seven.
Hard and soft leadership
Leadership comes in many forms. But Putter thinks he has the right balance between Dandan and Porter.
Putter considers Dandan the more serious of the two and treats everything as all business. That’s something the players feed off when it’s time for that, Putter said.
Porter can be serious when it’s needed but tends to keep the mood light and remind his teammates to appreciate how far they’ve made it, Putter said.