By JIM OTTS

Register Correspondent

DECATUR — The Gainesville Leopards watched an early lead vanish and lost to the Decatur Eagles 2-1 Friday in District 9-4A soccer action.

Noel Puente put the Leopards ahead early in the match by aggressively following his own shot. His initial effort was blocked by the Decatur keeper but the ball bounced away and Puente bored his second chance in the net.

The hosts knotted the match 1-1 before intermission with a 40-yard free kick.

The Eagles sent in the game winner with just 1:30 remaining. The forward got past the defensive line, then maneuvered past Leopard keeper Eduardo Franco for a shot at an open net.

Franco, normally the junior varsity keeper, was filling in for Israel Sustaita who suffered a concussion in a game earlier this week.

The squad also played without midfielder Giovanni Carranza, who is injured.

"Franco is a young keeper but has done a very good job all year. We just put him in a difficult position tonight," Coach Pedro Encarnacion said. "Now we have put the whole team in a difficult position."

The coach hopes both Sustaita and Carranza will be ready to play next week.

The Leopards, Eagles, Burkburnett and Wichita Falls Hirschi are all in a tight race for the district's third and fourth playoff spots. Wichita Falls Rider and Wichita Falls High have a firm grip on the first two spots.

"We are still in a position to control our own destiny," Encarnacion said. "We need to win against Burkburnett and Hirschi."

The Leopards also have a game remining with Wichita Falls High.

The district will be off Tuesday for TAKS testing and Burkburnett comes to town next Friday.

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