Aside from their one loss on the track field next door, the Denton Broncos know how to play when the bright lights are on at Bronco Stadium.
With District 5-4A’s top team in town, the Broncos didn’t waiver when Trophy Club Bryon Nelson came storming back to tie the game midway through the second half.
Instead, they flourished amidst the Bobcats’ pressure as sophomore Feliciano Amaya scored the go-ahead goal just three minutes later, nixing all their newfound momentum and sending Nelson to its first district loss as Denton claimed the 2-1 victory on Friday night.
“There’s the concern that once you give up that goal, that there will be a letdown,” Denton head coach Scott Heffley said. “But, to get that goal right back, it gave our team a lot of confidence. We can answer and we can finish out this game. We’ve felt this year that we can play with just about any team. If we didn’t score soon, it may be a different story.”
After sophomore Chris Torres gave the Broncos the 1-0 lead just nine minutes into the game, the Bobcats tied it at 1-1 in the 55th minute after several players came crashing into the box that led to a bouncing ball sneaking past Denton goalkeeper Johnathan Penny, who collided with one of the oncoming attackers as the ball went past him and inside the left post.
Instead of dropping their shoulders, the Broncos wouldn’t let the game-tying goal deter them from restoring their lead. Christian Carranza secured the ball midfield and found Amaya streaking up the middle of the field between two Bobcats. Amaya took the ball in stride from 20 yards out, took a few more steps before rocketing a shot past oncoming Bobcat goalie Travis Carmichael and inside the right post to put the Broncos back up 2-1.
“It was a really fast-paced game,” Amaya said. “I took the shot early because I saw the goalie coming out. It was really big because they were first in district and we kept the undefeated run at our house going.”
The Broncos (7-9, 4-4 district), were coming off a three-game losing streak with a narrow 1-0 road loss to second-place Birdville. With Guyer also winning Friday with a 2-0 victory over last-place Argyle at home, the win keeps Denton within a point of the Wildcats and secures the fourth-place spot above Lake Dallas, which Denton finishes out the season with at home on March 22.
“Obviously, when you beat the first team, you are going to get a lot of confidence off of that,” Heffley said. “Our district is really tight, but they are definitely the front runner. Not only did the win give us confidence, but it gave us some much needed points. We at least kept Lake Dallas a game away from us.”
The Broncos grabbed the 1-0 advantage with tenacious on-ball pressure by Amaya, as he was able track down the Nelson defender before eventually picking his pocket and dishing it over to Torres.
“He’s come up really big for us in some big games,” Heffley said of Amaya. “He is a new addition this year, and we couldn’t be happier to have him. He’s not only a great player, but he’s a great kid. He’s tireless, he works as hard in practice as he does in the game, and he is just a great all-around kid.”
Among three defenders and from 25 yards out, Torres absorbed a body check from an oncoming Bobcats defender, spun and ripped a shot off the right post and in to give the Broncos the 1-0 lead.
With Denton’s leading goal-scorer Josh Harden out with a knee injury, Torres was able to capitalize on the change of scenery from midfield to the front line.
“He spun around and found a way to get it just outside the reach of the goaltender,” Heffley said. “That was a fantastic play. With our top forward out, Chris has really been the playmaker in our midfield. Today, we put him up top because we needed somebody to give us a spark. We weren’t quite a strong in the middle with him there, but goals are so hard to come by.”
Amaya and Torres almost hooked up for their second connection of the game when Amaya sent a long, centering pass to Torres, whose sliding, ground-hugging shot was stopped by Carmichael’s diving, one-armed save in the 22nd minute.
Despite Denton claiming the lead, Nelson owned the majority of the time on attack, earning several corner kicks and free kicks. The Bobcats’ offensive flow was getting opportunities, but Denton’s defense was in solid, marking position on the defensive end while hampering any rebound attempts on the majority of Nelson’s set plays.
In the few breakdowns the Broncos did have, Penny was there with steady hands. In the 28th minute, Christian Pratt’s header off another Bobcats corner came a foot in front of Penny, but he came out to challenge the shot, vanquishing Nelson’s best opportunity of the half.
“He [Penny] has had a fantastic year and when district started, his level of play really increased,” Heffley said. “He made some good saves and kept us in when we were under pressure. But he has pretty much done that this year. The back line, the whole year, I’ve been really proud of them. Sometimes they’ve been under pressure because our midfield hasn’t been able to hold possession.”
In the 76th minute, Denton defended the initial threats of another Bobcats corner kick, but Noah Russo was able to get free from 30 yards out and send a bouncing shot just past Penny’s outstretched arm. However, the ball dribbled inches wide of the left post. Devin Porter nearly tied the game with less than 90 seconds remaining after he was able to get a shot off from 15 yards out, but his last-gasp attempt sailed high to the right as the Bobcats fell to 18-4-3 on the season and 6-1-1 in district play.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.