LONGVIEW — Welcome back to the Conference 4A state boys' soccer tournament, Palestine.
Junior forward Javier Leonor assisted on both goals — and it was a typical match between Palestine and Terrell as the Wildcats blanked the Tigers 2-0 to claim the Conference 4A-Region II championship on Saturday at Lobo Stadium.
“Terrell is a very good well-coached team,” said Palestine head coach John Absalom. “They are very disciplined on defense, and I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game.”
The unblemished 34-0 Wildcats will take on Progreso (23-7-2) at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Conference 4A state semifinals set for Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. The other half of the bracket features Madisonville (25-1-2) and San Elizario (20-5).
Palestine scored once in the first half and once in the second half as Terrell pushed its five midfielders toward the back line — which essentially made for eight defenders at once.
Tony Guzman netted Palestine's opening goal in the 13th minute as Leonor dribbled to the right and spotted him running in from the left flank. Guzman rocketed home the goal — lifting Palestine to an early lead.
Palestine had other chances to score, including a pair of absolute lasers from Riley Harper, but Terrell goalkeeper Wilson Valadez was up to the task and stopped them.
The Wildcats wouldn't score again until the 67th minute — with what proved to be an insurance tally.
Defenseman Malachi Musil was in the right spot at the right time to flick a Leonor rebound past Valadez into the lower right corner.
Musil jumped into the air with glee, and he was immediately congratulated by Guzman — who also pressured Valadez at the same time. The Terrell netminder was injured on the exchange, but later remained in the game.
In the victory over Terrell, Palestine finished with 33 shots on goal with 13 of them on frame. The team took seven corner kicks.
Palestine goalkeeper Christian Hutchinson recorded yet another shutout, and he made just one on-frame save — illustrating how customarily tough the Wildcat defense was again.
Palestine 6, Ferris 2
Palestine made its way into the 4A-Region II final with a 6-2 victory over Ferris on Friday evening.
Ferris deadlocked the score at 2-all in the 66th minute on a penalty kick; but, that's when the Wildcat offense turned on the afterburners.
Chris Giron scored off a Leonor corner kick to break the tie. Leonor netted Palestine's next two goals — which provided all the insurance the Wildcats needed.
Jose Sanchez blasted home a goal in the 76th minute to cap the scoring.
Absalom was proud of how Palestine handled a pair of 3-5-2 formations with different styles.
“They both played different,” Absalom said. “Ferris was the more offensive-minded team with a better attack. Terrell is defensive-minded. I think Ferris wore down. Both teams played physical, and (our) kids kept their composure.”
There will be a special send-off for the Palestine soccer team — which will visit every school in the PISD; then there’s a ceremony at the high school before the team boards the bus at 1:30 p.m.
Complete University Interscholastic League tournament pairings (Conferences 4A-6A) will run in the Wednesday edition of the Herald-Press.