Brendan Gillette’s shot from 15 yards out five minutes into Wednesday’s Class 4A Region I area round match slipped through the hands of Decatur goalkeeper Wade Laughlin.
Byron Nelson goalkeeper Travis Carmichael stoned the Eagles’ attempts to pull even until his Bobcats got another late goal to finally put away Decatur in a 2-0 victory.
Carmichael made five saves, including knocking away Juan Alvarez’ shot at the top right corner of the goal in the opening minute of the second half that would have tied the game.
“Their keeper did a great job and made a real athletic save on Juan’s shot,” said Decatur coach Nick Stokes.
“They did a great job. They are a good team and are well coached. But our kids battled and did a great job. We played physically and rose to their level.”
The loss ended a turn-around season for the Decatur program. After going winless in 2011, the Eagles posted a program-best four district wins and earned a playoff spot for the second time. Decatur finished the year at 5-9-2.
“It was a complete flip-flop from last year,” said Decatur senior defender Taylor Spence. “This year, we had good chemistry, and everyone was working together and playing their guts out.”
Spence, a four-year starter, played the area-round match despite a severe high-ankle sprain. He took a majority of the Eagles’ free kicks, putting one on goal. He came out of the game with one minute left.
He joined Reece Fitzgerald, Daniel Gamino and Alvarez in playing their final game.
“This was our most successful season, and it’s largely due to our seniors,” Stokes said. “They’ve left a legacy of success. It’s because of their leadership that we’ve got here.”
The Eagles took the field Wednesday after two weeks off. Decatur, who wrapped up the regular season March 23 with a win over Burkburnett, received a bye through bi-district.
Spence said the time off hurt the Eagles early.
“We weren’t mentally ready,” he said. “We haven’t played in two weeks and were rusty.”
Byron Nelson began attacking early, getting two shots on goal in the game’s first two minutes. Then on the Bobcats’ second corner kick, the ball came out to Gillette, who blasted the ball high toward the goal. Laughlin got two hands on the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
“I wasn’t focused,” Laughlin said. “I was looking ahead more than at the ball.”
Laughlin finished with eight saves on 10 shots. He kept the Eagles within a goal, stopping Byron Nelson’s Christian Pratt’s penalty kick with 3:25 left in the first half.
“I first thought he was going left, and then he made a move, and I knew he was going to my right,” Laughlin said.
Spence, Fitzgerald and Harry Boatman played solid defense in front of Laughlin, slowing down attacks by Byron Nelson’s speedy forwards.
After putting only two shots on goal in the first half, Decatur went on the offensive in the second half, starting with Alvarez’ attempt in the opening minute.
The Eagles forced Carmichael to make three more stops.
With 15:21 remaining, Byron Nelson put in the game-clinching goal after a penalty gave the Bobcats a free kick from 30 yards out. Haggi Amirally headed home the Bobcats’ second goal.