CONWAY -- Springdale High scored two goals in the final 3 minutes, 20 seconds of the first half to pull away from a 0-0 tie, and the No. 1 seed Bulldogs topped Bentonville High 3-0 in the 6A Boys State Soccer Tournament on Saturday.
Springdale (17-2), ranked No. 16 nationally by MaxPreps, came into the state tournament with a chip on its shoulder after suffering a stunning loss to Fort Smith Northside last season in the semifinals.
This time, a focused Red'Dogs team took care of business against a Bentonville (14-7) team it had already beaten twice this season in 6A-West Conference action.
Senior midfielder Nelson Barroso, who scored the winning goal in Friday's double-overtime victory against Conway, set up Jose Vega with a pinpoint pass on a set play off a free kick deep in Bentonville territory.
Vega, who will leave Springdale as one of the top male soccer players in program history, was left all alone after crossing paths with teammate Irvin Sotero. Vega slipped the ball past Bentonville keeper Evan Shanks to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
"We've been working on that in practice for the better part of a month, but it's never really worked as well as it did today," Springdale coach D.J. Beeler said. "So that was really good to see, and it was what we really needed to get going."
Springdale scored again less than two minutes later when Rodrigo Mouron used a bicycle kick to assist goal-scorer Rene Recinos in the 39th minute.
Bentonville, the third-seeded team from the 6A-West, suffered three of its seven losses to Springdale and was outscored 9-0 in the three games.
Springdale added a goal in the eighth minute of the second half on a shot by Sotero.
Bryant 0, Rogers High 0 (1-0 PKs)
Forgive Bryant junior Jonathan Giron if he didn't rip off his jersey and race jubilantly around the field after putting the Hornets in the state soccer finals for the first time.
But Giron, the fifth and final Bryant player to attempt a penalty kick against Rogers High goalie Anthony Garcia, said he wanted to make sure the ball landed in the net.
"It's happened a couple of times where the keeper, he kinda touches it," Giron said. "So you never know if it's going to go hit the post or go out."
Giron stood motionless, head cocked toward the clouds at McConnell Stadium as his teammates streamed out to mob him.
"I don't really know," Giron said of his reaction. "I guess it's just shock."
His teammates never hesitated to celebrate after toiling through 100 minutes of scoreless action.
"They just went crazy," Giron said.
Bryant coach Richard Friday might have joined in the celebration, but he said he could not bear to watch the final kick.
"I just hate watching them," Friday said of penalty-kick shootouts. "On the last one, I just started walking away. I didn't even want to see it."
But he heard it.
"It was like a weight just lifted off my shoulder," he said. "We get to play one more week."
Rogers (15-6-2) might have been the team celebrating if one of several near-miss shots had gotten past Bryant goalkeeper Codi Kirby, including a chip shot less than two minutes into the second half.
"I think we had more chances than they did," Rogers coach Stephen Peck said. "We just didn't finish the chances we had. And eventually, it comes back to bite you. That's how it goes. That's soccer."
Peck said there is no question that when his team failed to convert on the opening attempt in penalty kicks, the Mounties, who won the state title in 2017 and made the finals last spring, were a step behind.
"You want the first one so you know where you stand," he said. "It puts pressure on the other team. Then all of a sudden when you miss the first one, it puts pressure on you."
Senior midfielder Trey Keith was the first Mounties player to attempt a penalty kick, and Kirby deflected the shot wide.
Nobody else missed. Paco Jimenez, Johnny Vazquez, Brayan Flores and Dante Pardetti followed with makes for Rogers, but Bryant (16-2-2) responded each time, with Brandon Delgadillo, Henry Terry, Thomas Bullington, Martin Ramirez and finally Giron.
Penalty kicks are a dicey way to decide a game, but Friday said it's something the Hornets work on every day for 20 minutes after practice.
"We make our own fortune," Friday said. "Every single day after practice we work on PKs. It's just habit forming. If you make it, you get to leave. If you miss, you go again."Friday said everything leading up to Saturday's game allowed him to believe it would be close.
"When you look at the records, and you look at the stats, it's dead even," Friday said. "Everything is flat even.
"Who would give first. Who would give the ground first."
There was no give in either team for 100 minutes of action -- two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtimes -- played in rain that varied from light to moderate.
It wasn't until Kirby nudged the first penalty kick away from the net that Bryant got the edge.
"I saw his plant foot open up, so I knew he was going left," Kirby said. "I got one hand on it. It was a powerful shot, but I got a hand on it and it hit the post."
All of which set up Giron, a junior, to be the man of the moment.
"I know it's a big deal, especially for our seniors," Giron said. "I knew how much it meant for everybody in the crowd, so it's always a shocker.
"Shed a couple of tears. Saw a couple of my buddies. They did, too. Great feeling."
Siloam Springs 1, Mountain Home 0
Danny Daugherty saw his opening and took the shot, and it wound up making the difference for Siloam Springs.
Daugherty's goal on an open net in the 52nd minute proved to be the only score of the match in the semifinals Saturday afternoon at Lion Stadium.
The win clinched a berth in the Class 5A state finals for the Panthers (18-5), who won three straight one-goal victories this week to reach the state finals for the fifth straight season.
"I talked about all year, people expect that out of us and people have set the bar very high for us," said first-year coach Luke Shoemaker. "And they think it's easy, but it's a grind. We worked all year to get to that game and beyond. Now if we can put together 80 more minutes of good soccer we can bring the trophy back to where it belongs."
After watching Mountain Home control the game for most of the first half, the Panthers turned up the heat in the second half.
Siloam Springs kept up offensive pressure on the Bombers (19-2), who ended up making a crucial defensive mistake that led to the Panthers' goal.
The ball was played at the top of the Bombers' 18-yard box and Mountain Home goalkeeper Jose Alonso came out of the goal and called off his defenders to make the play. However, the Mountain Home defenders kept playing the ball and it went back to Daugherty, who chipped it over into the open net.
"The keeper came out, and the defense was there, and they played it out, and that's when I got the opportunity," Daugherty said. "I saw that the keeper was out, and I just hit it in."
-- Graham Thomas • @NWAGraham
Sports on 05/12/2019
Print Headline: STATE BOYS SOCCER Springdale answers the challenge