By JUSTIN RAINS
Going up against teams from much bigger schools is nothing new for the Palestine boys’ soccer team.
As a Class 3A team, the Wildcats are almost always going up against bigger opponents, being forced to play in a Class 4A district at the moment.
That’ll be no different when the Wildcats head north to Corsicana Friday to take on Waco in the sectional round of the state soccer playoffs.
The Lions are only two years removed from playing at the Class 5A level, and PHS coach John Absalom knows the challenge it presents, comparing it to the Bible’s story of David and Goliath.
“You have a 3A school going against a 4A school, and it wasn’t too long ago they were a 5A school, and no one expects us to win,” he said. “They are a quality opponent and they will be tough to beat but we fear no one and respect everyone.”
So far in the playoffs, Palestine’s opponents have been limited to fellow Class 3A squads. The Wildcats opened with a 6-1 defeat of Brookeshire-Royal before beating Mexia 2-1 behind goals from Marcelo Zavala and Adrian Rodriguez.
Plus, the Wildcats call District 35-4A home, where they face bigger squads like Nacogdoches and Jacksonville twice per year.
“It’s a big help,” Palestine senior Alec Meyers said of the 35-4A competition. “Those are two great teams...great players, great coaches (and) great competition.”
The Wildcats went 2-3 against those two schools this past year, splitting the regular season series with both before falling to Nacogdoches in a playoff seeding match before the postseason began.
Waco is coming off of a 3-2 win over Brenham in the area round, a game that saw the Lions outscore the Cubs 2-0 in the second half to grab the come-from-behind victory.
But, despite the Lions’ obvious ability on the attack, PHS goalkeeper Jose Cabrera has faith in his back four.
“We’ve got a good defense,” Cabrera said. “All four are upperclassmen and are experienced...and know what it’s like with this type of competition.”
Plus, the Palestine offense is no slouch. On the year, the Wildcats averaged more than two goals per game en route to sharing the district title with Nacogdoches.
“We’ve got a good team behind us, a good team and a great bench. We’ve just got to play our best, be strong and bring it to them.”
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Corsicana’s Tiger Stadium.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This version has been corrected to show that Adrian Rodriguez scored on of Palestine's goals.