The soccer Bobcats have a nascent look this season after most of the 2016 veterans graduated, and fiery Coach Luis Cardenas is getting familiar with rotations and combinations in the early going.
After the team went through an uncharacteristic season in 2016, missing the playoffs for only the second time in six seasons, seventh-year leader Cardenas advances into battle with a roster of promising if unproven commodities. Having gone 2-2-1 into Tuesday’s home match against Palmview, the ‘Cats looked solid most of the night, though they surrendered a tying goal inside the final minute of a 1-1 effort.
It is a fast and small side this season, with none of the big horses the program has boasted in the past. But the ‘Cats look rugged in back with wiry Genaro Martinez, a technically sound player, and physically imposing junior Hector Martinez, a transfer from California.
Forward Luis Garza, who banged in the goal against Palmview, has a strong leg while Brian Soto brings versatility to the pitch. Speed comes in the wake of Jesus Cantu, one of a handful of seniors on the roster.
“We’re fast, that is true, but now we have to see if we can be fast with the ball,” said Cardenas, who added that there is a difference between the two. “We’re going to be facing a lot of tough teams in district and I am not satisfied with the lineup right now, we have to try some more combinations, we have to get more experienced as a team.”
The lack of seasoning showed against the visiting Lobos as EHS controlled the ball relatively well and got on the board at 23:39 of the second half when Garza, catching a throw-in from the strapping Martinez, curved a 20-yard rocket into the net. Having held the Lobos without a goal playing against the wind, the ‘Cats took advantage of the steady breeze to assume the lead.
Midfielders Arturo Garza and Cristian Garza helped solidify the defense along with Martinez at left fullback and Cantu out right. Palmview made a furious run in the last 10 minutes, and things got rough out there, contact-wise. Despite some nice clear-outs, the Bobcats gave one away and that led to a cross and score by the enemy at 0:53.
Though they haven’t got many hands with varsity chops, the ‘Cats played a reasonably good game against Palmview, a perennial playoff combatant, and advanced to the Brownsville Tournament over the weekend ready to take more steps along the learning curve.
Earlier in the year they drew with a Progreso side that went to the state finals last year, and held a 2-1 lead on vaunted McAllen High before fading in the second half. The effort against Palmview shows the team has potential, and that includes tiny freshman Jesus Abrego, a spindly youngster who is vaguely reminiscent of former great Kristov Martinez. He is very quick and aggressive, and will only get better as he matures by logging minutes afield.
WEEKEND SOCCER ACTION
The ‘Cats fought their way at the BISD Tourney over the weekend, and on the final day went 1-1 Friday, beating Raymondville but losing a close one to Rowe, 4-3.
The Lady Bobcats advanced to the quarterfinals of the BISD, beating Mission by a goal Friday to clinch the fourth and final seed from their group. Econ, despite some injury woes, also got past the pool despite a 2-4 early showing, and Saturday both city clubs were in action for the Silver Bracket. The Lady Jags pushed through to the Silver title, over Hanna, 2-0.
Vela won three of six at the BISD but narrowly missed out on the quarterfinals of the Silver Division; the Lady Sabes defeated La Joya and Hanna Friday but a late afternoon loss to Pharr North knocked them out of the running.
The boys from Vela were up at a Corpus-area tournament as was Econ, and the Jags ended up playing for the title Saturday. They were nipped by Weslaco East in the Gulf Coast Classic, 2-1 on penalties.