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Soccer: Bulls deliver second-half knockout in semifinals

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, April 15, 2017
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Success at Atste

SUCCESS AT STATE – Jonathan Juarez and Juan Amador run across the field celebrating the Bulls’ semifinal win Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Playing in the state tournament in the program’s second year, proved not to be too big of a stage for the Bridgeport Bulls.

Bridgeport’s Miguel Olmos and Juan Amador found the back of the net in the second half and the Bulls turned in another brilliant defensive effort to take down Progreso Wednesday 2-0 in the Class 4A semifinal at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.

“It’s an amazing feeling for a small school like us with expectations of never getting soccer,” Olmos said. “We finally get it and here we are.”

Bridgeport will take on Kilgore, who beat Houston Washington 4-0 in the other semifinal, at 2:30 p.m. Friday for the Class 4A crown.

“I cannot believe we’re here, but at the same time I can,” said Bridgeport coach Ben Parks. “I look those kids in the eye before every game. My desire and drive to win the game is reflected in their eyes. It’s just crazy and unheard of, but I see these kids every day. I see the way they work and laugh with each other and I see how they believe in each other. The results are not surprising.”

For the first 40 minutes of their state tournament debut, the Bulls found themselves staving off a series of Progreso attacks. Progreso outshot Bridgeport 7-3 in the first half with goalkeeper Andrew Stotts making three of his five saves to keep the game scoreless.

“We’ve had a great defense all year,” Stotts said. “We’ve had the best in the district, the best in the region, and now we’re proving it at the state level.”

Stotts’ shutout was saved with a clear of loose ball in the box by freshman Jonathan Juarez with 12 minutes to go. Juarez also made a stop in the box in the first half.

“He’s one of two freshmen for me that’s played every single minute in the playoffs, which is unheard of,” Parks said.

“We had a couple of yellows late and had to take a couple of guys off. Johnathan moved into the center midfield and played fantastic.”

After being on the defensive most of the first half, Bridgeport went on the attack after halftime.

Settling early nerves and moving leading scorer Amador to an attacking midfield spot, the Bulls controlled possession in the second half and turned the tables on Progreso. Bridgeport outshot Progreso 7-5 after halftime.

“Every game in the playoffs coach has told us the other team can last six rounds with us like in a boxing match, but they can’t last 12 with us,” Olmos said. “That motivates us to keep going after halftime. Just like every other game we’re tied at halftime and the second half we’ve got to put it away.”

The consistent pressure cracked the Progreso defense in the 61st minute with Efrain DeLuna finding Olmos, who buried a shot into the net to the right of the keeper to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead.

“I just saw the ball coming to me pretty fast, but I had time to control it,” Olmos said. “I’ve been working on shooting it fast. That’s what I did. I took the time I had and shot it. I couldn’t have placed it anywhere better.”

With nine minutes remaining, Amador got a clean run up the field and beat the keeper to the right side to put the game away.

“I saw Efrain looking up at me and I knew it was my chance to go make that run,” Amador said. “Once he gave it to me, I decided to take it in and hit it with my left.”

Now, only one game separates the Bulls from a state title.

“We’ve come far and are not giving up yet,” Amador said.

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