Midlothian Heritage High School's varsity boys' soccer team will enter the UIL 4A playoffs for the second year in a row and the second year in the school's two-year history when they face Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Burleson Stadium.
The game will pit two familiar rival coaches — Midlothian Heritage's Buen Buentello and Diamond Hill-Jarvis' Dan Russell — against each other. Each of their young and talented teams cracked the postseason ceiling last year.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The (11-9-2, 7-3) Eagles, which reached the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs in 2016, are the District 7-4A No. 3 seed behind Benbrook and district champion Castleberry High School.
They finished 13-6-5 overall and 7-2-1 in district 8-4A ahead of Alvarado and Midlothian Heritage in the standings last season. The Jaguars won 2-1 on Feb. 19 and tied them 1-1 on March 8.
"We aren't looking at last year's results or strategies to determine this year's outcome," said Buentello, the Jaguar head boys' soccer coach. "It'll be a renewed rivalry game from the past, but we have come a long way as have they and teams have changed quite a bit. We just have to go out and play to the strengths we have at this moment."
The (16-9, 9-3) Jaguars finished third in District 8-4A behind undefeated Life Oak Cliff and two-loss Alvarado High Schools. They finished 2016 with 9-11-4 overall and 5-1-4 district records.
Diamond Hill-Jarvis send it first in the standings with 19 points followed by Alvarado with 17 and Midlothian Heritage with 16.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Midlothian Heritage, despite the April 2016 district realignment, reached the playoffs The second year in a row. With a win, the Jaguars can move to the area round for the second consecutive year.
They shutout Oak Cliff Faith Family 1-0 and claimed the school's first boys' area soccer title. Buentello said a harder road to the postseason might have prepared them for the rigors that lie ahead.
"I think that our district being as competitive as it was will benefit us heading into playoffs, Buentello said. "We have had the opportunity to compete all season long — including our non-district schedule — against some of the top-ranked programs in the state. I feel that's exposed us to every style of play that we can expect to see in the post-season."
The winner of the bi-district matchup will face Melissa High School, which shares District 5-4A space with Argyle, Gainsville and Anna High Schools. The Cardinals were knocked out of the 2016 UIL 4A playoffs by Alvarado after a 3-1 area round loss on April 1.
"Diamond Hill-Jarvis and Melissa are teams that are well-coached," Buentello said. "[The Diamond Hill-Jarvis] players expect to go multiple rounds deep every season. It's a tradition for them and our players know they will draw on their experience and team standards to push them through. We have to remember that we had to go through many battles to get to this point, too. "While we respect the capabilities of every opponent we face, we also know that if we play our game, we give ourselves an excellent chance to win."