After a couple of recent near misses, the Brownwood Lions soccer team finally scratched across its first victory, knocking off the Graham Steers, 4-3, Tuesday night at Gordon Wood Stadium in the pre-district finale.
“We’ve been working really hard trying to improve on fundamentals and just finishing,” said Lions soccer head coach Scott Swanzy. “We’ve been so close in the last three games. To be up or at least tied with less than five minutes and to lose it, and then to have the heart we did just then, and the intensity to finish, that’s what we’ve been trying to get to, and we got there right before district.”
With six of the seven goals scored in the second half, the back-and-forth battle swung the Lions’ way for good with less than a minute left. Blake Brasher drilled the game-winning goal with 51 seconds left, scoring from 15 yards out on the right side as he found the far left corner of the net.
“We fought all the way to end, played the ball up, and then Blake came up and put it in,” Swanzy said. “Blake has been coming on all year and he’s just getting stronger and stronger and his anticipation of situations like that is getting better and better. He’s around the ball and getting more physical.”
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Lions drew even 10 minutes into the second half when Ben Fitzgerald scored following an errant Graham kick that came to rest right in front of the goal keeper.
“That was big,” Swanzy said. “Ben is one those guys around goal that’s real smart. He’s right where he needs to be physically and any time he’s around the goal he’s going to run through whoever if it’s a 50-50 ball and he’ll have a good chance of scoring.”
Another poor Graham kick sailed 15 yards behind the defender’s head and into the goal to stake Brownwood to a 2-1 lead with 22:30 to go.
The lead lasted just 1:18 as the Steers drew even.
Brownwood then appeared poised to notch the win with 5:46 left as Enrique Hernandez scored when he headed in a rebound after his 11-yard penalty kick was denied.
“Enrique is not ever going to give up until the end of the play, to a fault sometimes,” Swanzy said. “Enrique has a fierce, competitive heart, and that pays off whenever you’re around the goal, especially on a penalty kick. It’s a live ball coming back at you and he was probably mad that he missed the kick and wanted to put it back in.”
This time, the Lions’ lead lasted just 37 seconds before Graham knotted the score at 3.
“They moved one of their best shooters back and he is an outstanding player,” Swanzy said. “In any space he was dangerous, on or off the ball. Either he was going to play it to someone or put it in the back of the net, and we just lost that intensity. We’ve got to see that dangerous guy and not give him any space.”
In the end, however, Brownwood finally came out on top.
“They’ve worked so hard and it’s been so frustrating because they were so close,” Swanzy said. “The last game we lost in the last minute and 15 seconds and that’s hard to take when you’ve been working so hard. But now here comes Mineral Wells.”
The Lions open District 6-3A soccer action at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Mineral Wells.