Gainesville

Gainesville’s Juan Valadez cruises through the middle of the Burkburnett defense in the Leopards’ 9-0 victory Wednesday, March 3, at Leopard Stadium.

From start to finish, the Gainesville Leopards soccer team dominated Burkburnett in their first district matchup Wednesday, March 3, at Leopard Stadium.

The Leopards were explosive offensively and suffocated the Bulldogs with their defense, holding them without a shot on goal in a 9-0 destruction on senior night.

It was the ninth consecutive victory for Gainesville as it finished up the first half of district play at a perfect 4-0.

Aside from how well the Leopards played, head coach Danny Franco said it was nice to be able to get some bench players in the game, especially on senior night.

“Being able to reward some of those kids that have been with the program for four years and put in all the hard work, it was nice to give them an opportunity to play in front of their parents and family,” Franco said. “I’m proud of the guys to come out and keep taking care of business. It was a good overall performance from everybody.”

The nine goals scored were not only a season-high but a benchmark for last season as well. Franco said the offensive expectations are always high and the team did more than meet them Wednesday.

Burkburnett has yet to win this season and has been outscored 106-6 this season, so needless to say, the Leopards expected to win this game.

“Them being able to come out and handle Burkburnett and get that resounding win is good for us going forward,” Franco said. “The guys have done a good job this year of stepping up to the plate when I challenge them. That’s a big difference between this year’s team and last year’s team. They’re pretty fearless and they don’t back down.”

Gainesville was lethal in the midfield, retaining possession the majority of the game. From the defense to the offense, the Leopards were patient and kept Burkburnett’s defense off balance the entire game.

As for how the Leopards potted nine goals, Franco said they converted on their 1-on-1 opportunities.

“Gabriel [Nevarez] and all the guys up top, anytime they had a chance to go at the defenders, they won those battles,” Franco said. “They found the open guy after they won the step. It mainly comes down to composure and not being rushed or freaking out. As long as you can get your head up and pick that corner to put the ball away, it makes your job easier.”

Keepers Hector Lozano and Jesus Guerrero split duties in goal with Guerrero playing the final two thirds of the game.

Franco said getting him playing time was also great.

“It’s nice because typically we’ve had close games, so it’s hard to get him on the field,” Franco said. “He comes in and works hard. He never complains. He’s been in the program for four years and he comes from a good family. He’s a good kid. So to be able to play in front of his friends and family was good. When we pass them the ball, they did a good job keeping the ball moving. It’s good to be able to trust them with their feet.”

The Leopards will finish the regular season with four more district games in a span of 11 days. Franco said the key to that stretch is taking it one game at a time and sticking with their game plan.

“Last year, we started thinking too far ahead and we lost a district game thinking we’d already won district,” Franco said. “That forced us to win the final district game. We just have to do what we’re good at. When you’re winning like we have been, you don’t have to make all these adjustments. We’ve found what we’re good at, which is letting the ball do the work and letting other teams chase us.”

Reach Patrick Hayslip at sports@gainesvilleregister.com and Twitter at @PatrickHayslip

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