Harry Houdini had nothing on Johnathan Penny and the Denton Bronco defensemen when it came to close escapes Friday night.
Penny, the Broncos’ senior goalkeeper, stopped 11 shots — including four in the final 10 minutes as — as Denton held on to defeat Guyer 2-1 in the District 11-4A opener for both schools.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Penny said. “The whole second half, when we led 2-1 at half, we knew we had to keep the lead. Our defense had to work very hard.”
And that the quartet of Chandler Page, Michael Husbands, Zachary Farmer and Tyler Proffitt did.
They made first-half goals by Josh Harden and Feliciano Amaya stand up in a scoreless final 40 minutes to give the Broncos their first win over the Wildcats in a good while.
“It has been several years since we’ve beaten them. I don’t remember how many exactly,” Denton coach Scott Heffley said.
“This is a big win because it’s a crosstown rivalry, but it’s even bigger because it’s the opening of district. In our district, every point you get is going to be big.”
As the Broncos improved to 4-5 on the season, the Wildcats fell to 6-6-3 despite owning a 12-10 edge in shots and controlling the ball for most of the second half.
“They capitalized on their opportunities and we just didn’t do that,” Guyer coach Cody Schroeder said. “In the second half, they did what they had to do to get the win.”
Harden opened the game’s scoring when he leaned to the left and kicked to the right past Wildcat keeper Carlos Enriquez on a penalty kick in the 20th minute of play.
It came after Guyer’s Cole Christian was called for tripping Denton’s Amaya in the penalty area.
Twelve minutes later, Guyer knotted the match at 1-1 when McKenna Cook scored on a header off a 30-yard cross from the right wing by midfielder Sean Diamond.
The Broncos bounced back less than two minutes later when Amaya booted a loose ball in front of the goal past Enriquez in the 34th minute. The score came after a long free kick by Proffitt from the middle of the field banged off several Guyer and DHS players in front of the goal.
“Early on, we were playing pretty well, trying to limit the amount of space they had at midfield,” Heffley said. “When we allowed them to serve the ball in from midfield and they equalized, that could have been a big momentum turn for them.
“But the fact that we were able to score and get back that goal — especially with the young players we had on the field — it gave them more belief, more confidence.”
Amaya was one of six sophomores Heffley started, along with Page, Zachary Alspach, Chris Torres, Zachary Arids and Jose Herrera.
Guyer coach Cody Schroeder started Cameron Emadi in goal the second half and the Wildcat junior pitched a shutout. But the Broncos didn’t push the offense much after intermission.
Denton’s best second-half scoring chance came in the 74th minute, when Harden headed a 50-yard free kick from Husbands toward the net only to see a Guyer defender knock it down.
The Wildcats had a near-miss in the 70th minute, when Bryan Jacinto’s cross was headed by Cook to teammate Michael Munoz at the goal mouth, but Penny wound up with the ball.
In the 76th minute, Penny snagged Cook’s 25-yard shot and a minute later the keeper caught a tricky bounce off a low 25-yard rocket fired from Diamond.
Penny said his toughest save of the night was the one with just over a minute remaining when a corner kick from Diamond deflected toward goal and Penny slapped it over the crossbar.
“Our player was going to head it but someone turned him and he headed it toward our goal,” the keeper said. “I had to touch it over.”