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The best season in Paris High soccer history ended suddenly Tuesday night in Royse City when The Colony’s diminutive forward Jose Larin pierced the normally resilient Wildcat defense for a pair of goals to trigger a 2-1 win in the Class 4A bi-district playoff round.
The Cougars (12-8-3) advance to meet Frisco Wakeland, a 6-0 winner over Denison, in the area round. Meanwhile, the road ends for the 22-4-1 Cats, who notched an incredible 21 shutouts in regulation play this season. They needed to make it 22 to survive to play another round.
While Paris had a relatively uncontested ride to win District 19-4A with a 9-1 mark, The Colony finished fourth in a more competitively balanced District 20. Still, the Cougars showed more quickness, team speed, and ability to win contested balls and generally controlled play throughout the match.
Nevertheless, it was the Cats who managed the important first goal, one that appeared might hold up as the game-winner, especially considering the smothering blanket that had been the Paris defense, anchored by junior Leonel Gutierrez.
It was an offensive move by Gutierrez that triggered the rare scoring opportunity. Gutierrez took possession of the ball at the Paris 30, found a lane down the left wing and maneuvered past a diving Cougar defender to eventually create a corner kick setup. Senior Dylan Kresen took the corner, and his cross went over the head of leading scorer Michael Cade. While The Colony’s goalkeeper started to his right to defend against the dangerous Cade, senior Josh Kirby‘s header rolled into the net to the goalie’s unprotected left side.
The score came with 5:55 remaining until halftime and gave Paris a 1-0 lead. Earlier in the half, Cade was denied an opportunity to score on an open net when he was whistled for offsides.
Paris missed a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 lead 12 minutes into the second half when a cross by Zane Young found the right foot of Jose Escobedo, but the Wildcat junior caught a high bounce and his shot zipped over the goalpost.
“We had a chance to be up 3-nothing and could have gone into a defensive shell,” Wildcat head coach Jeremy Beshirs said. “Instead, we don’t finish and let them hang around.”
The momentum dramatically changed less than a minute later when a chip from 35 yards out was settled down by Larin just 5 yards outside the goalline, and he easily beat Paris goalie Angel Rocha from point-blank range. The match was tied, 1-1, but Paris was clearly on the ropes now.
The knockout blow was delivered with 16:36 remaining. With The Colony on the attack, the Cats couldn’t get a clear, and a Cougar midfielder made a nice sliding tackle to regain possession and direct the ball to Larin, whose 25-yard blast sailed over Rocha’s reach into the net for what proved to be the game-winner.
Tensions rose on both sides in the final minutes with numerous yellow cards issued along with a violent, but accidental collision between a Cougar forward and Rocha chasing down a loose ball in front of the goal. After a long delay, Rocha left the match and later was taken by ambulance to a Greenville hospital for observation. He was released and was back in school Thursday.
The Cats kept battling until the end to get the equalizer, but the damage had been done. Paris was forced to play The Colony’s game, and the Cats were doing it minus the services of senior playmaker Blake Beshirs, who injured his back before Spring Break and hasn’t regained playing form. Without Beshirs’ leadership in midfield, the Cougars dominated time of possession and prevented the Cats from mounting any serious challenges.
And so ends the careers of the most talented soccer class in Wildcat history, topped by four-year starters Beshirs (52 career goals) and Cade (55). They leave behind a legacy of the school’s first two district boys soccer titles (also champions in 2012 when the Cats advanced three rounds in the playoffs. They had envisioned a more glorious exit in 2014.
“Now comes the hard part,” said Beshirs, 93-20-10 in his 5-year coaching stint at PHS. “Starting all over again.”
Soon the UIL will release its new conference alignments for soccer that will create a third conference for the sport and help alleviate the current inequities that create playoff matches between smaller schools like Paris and schools such as The Colony with twice the enrollment. It will come a year too late to help the Class of 2014.