MIDLOTHIAN — Midlothian High School finished third place in the District 10-5A soccer standings after beating Lancaster High School 7-0 Friday night at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium.
The (14-4-3, 8-3-3) Panthers also ended the regular season as the leader in goals scored with 43 and third in goals against with 14. They scored five more goals than one-loss No. 1 Waxahachie High School and 19 more than two-loss No. 2 Mansfield Lake Ridge High School.
"I think seeing a lot of production from several players — especially at the district schedule's end — is a great way to push toward the playoffs," said Austin Guest, the MHS head boys' soccer coach. "We work very hard at moving the ball quickly and developing all of our players into attacking personalities. We have numerous players who have scored several goals, rather than one guy we rely on for everything. I think that's a very positive thing. "
While Edgar Castaneda launched the opening salvo toward the back of the net in the 19th minute of play on a Garrett Stanger assist, five other players scored goals in the nest 60 minutes on the pitch. Freshman Justin Barnett scored the first of his two goals on a Castaneda pass (30:00), Bryan Rodriguez scored on Casteneda's second assist of the game (35:00) and Nathan Gravely nailed one to the back of the net after a Maycol Reyes helper (39:00).
Their scoring, which Barnett described as patient, has been a constant the entire season with newcomer Maycol Reyes in the Midlothian fold.
"It's been huge," he said. "If we aren't able to counter or go at them right away, we played patiently and didn't force anything. That is mainly because of our very smart, talented midfield — including Edgar and Maycol. They see the game better than anyone I've ever played with, they never panic and always play the correct balls. Maycol has added some extreme quality out of midfield and has single-handedly won us a handful of games. That includes the victory against Summit and his hat trick. It's really a good mix of veterans and youth."
Reyes, who describes the current Panther configuration of players better than his old team, came to Midlothian via transfer from Virginia's Nansemond River High School. He was one of three Honduran-born players on the team and was named to the 2015 Virginia High School League Group 4A boys’ soccer all-state first team as a freshman.
With Reyes as one of its brightest stars, the Nansemond River Warriors reached Region 4A South semifinals finished the year with a 12-6-2 district record and the first title of any kind in school history — the Ironclad Conference tournament championship.
"We have veteran leadership that helps us stay patient on the attack so we don't try hard not to force balls," Barnett continued. "We wait for the right opportunity and we are able to be continuously dangerous because of that and by pressing their back line rigorously and not allowing any free clearances. Often times, we'll force a turnover and are able to come back at them again."
Using defense to create offense, Rodriguez added, has been an evolution as the season's progressed.
Since allowing three goals during the Feb. 28 loss to Mansfield Lake Ridge, Midlothian has outscored their opponents 12-3. Two of those three goals came while the Panthers were busy securing the third seed in the district against Mansfield Summit.
"Coach would always stress to us how important finishing [goals] was during a game and how opportunities can come from a lot of pressure on the ball," Rodriguez said. "The best aspect of our game I would say is our offense because it can be created through the defense. Still, our defense is pretty solid but the strongest part of the team is how many ways and angles we can attack teams offensively."
The Panthers' three goals in less than 10 minutes buoyed them to a 4-0 halftime lead. Though their offense was a key component to the building blowout, defense was the major focus.
After the break, Midlothian scored three goals via Garrett Stagner (50:00, from Zach Thibodeau), Andrew Salazar (78:00, Barnett) and Barnett (79:00, Arron Young) and limited The Tigers to a handful of possessions past midfield and fewer shots on goal. It will be a trend Guest and his team will need to continue regardless of where they land in the UIL 5A postseason picture.
"I think we are a talented group who is still working to get our best game inconsistently," Guest said. " If everyone puts their best on the field for those 80 to 100 minutes we'll be very competitive."