The Byron Nelson Bobcats escaped with a 1-0 victory in Friday’s Class AAAA area round playoff game despite a superb defensive effort from the Gainesville Leopards.
Leopard goalkeeper Marcos Garcia made a habit of being exactly where he needed to be, saving more than 15 shots and deflecting others to keep the Cats in the game, while teammates matched the highly favored Bobcats in challenges for loose balls over the entire pitch.
Garcia was able to keep the ball out of the net on five close-in free shots the Bobcats were awarded following Leopard fouls.
The Spotted Cat net minder also stopped five Bobcat corner kicks.
The goal that proved the winner came in the twelfth minute and was scored by Byron Nelson left fullback Mason Shank. The defender made a long run on the left while the flow of play went up the right side.
A long cross found Shank alone at the eighteen-yard penalty area boundary and he dribbled near the end line, narrowing his own shooting angle, before blasting the ball just inside the back post and out of Garcia’s reach.
Leopard midfielder Cale Kennedy kept close tabs on Shank thereafter and prevented the defender from making any more surprise runs along the back side.
The Leopards spent much of the evening with timing problems offensively. Players made promising runs that were slowed by passes just inches behind or a step too far ahead and Byron Nelson had a decided height advantage on balls that were lofted or sent skyward by miscue.
The Reds improved in the second stanza and applied pressure.
Daniel Chagolla moved through Bobcat defenders to gain the penalty area with the ball at his feet, only to be tugged backward before getting off a shot. No foul was called.
Hugo Sanchez crossed the ball into the penalty area while the Leopards had a numerical advantage but two players stepped on the oval simultaneously.
In the waning moments Leopard efforts were halted by a referee whistle for hand ball, an unfortunate bounce out of bounds and a very fast Bobcat defense.
The Leopards gained the area playoffs by finishing third in District 9-AAAA and received a bye in the bi-district round. Byron Nelson is the champion of District 11-AAAA and have lost just one game this season.