JUSTIN — The Guyer Wildcats took a two-goal lead into halftime Tuesday and remained vigilant against a potential letdown, holding on for a 4-2 victory over the Azle Hornets in the Class 4A Region I bi-district playoffs at Northwest ISD Stadium.
“We were fortunate to have a two-goal lead, but we told them at halftime that the most dangerous lead in soccer is a 2-0 halftime lead,” Guyer coach Cody Schroeder said. “With that, we came out a little complacent, dead-legged and a bit fatigued, and they got that goal. We were fortunate to walk out of there 4-2.”
In a physical, frenetically paced showdown between the third-seeded Wildcats and the second-seeded Hornets from District 12-4A, Sean Diamond led Guyer with two goals, including a key, difference-making score in the 63rd minute.
After bombarding Azle with shots through the first 19 minutes, the Wildcats broke the scoreless tie on a free kick from 20 yards out in the 20th minute.
Diamond’s centering kick from the left sideline trickled through a collection of players in front of the goal, bouncing its way inside the right post past a screened and confused Azle goalkeeper to put Guyer up 1-0.
“I felt like my team played really well,” Diamond said. “We just need to clean up the two goals we gave up and keep doing what we do in the playoffs. Azle was a tough opponent and very physical, unlike our play. We are more tactically aware.”
Guyer (12-8-5) sustained Azle’s counterpunches and landed a crippling blow in the 31st minute as Diamond’s corner kick bounced around inside the box before being peppered toward the goal. The Azle keeper stopped the initial threat but couldn’t control the rebound, as Jordan Reyes crashed in to disrupt the save and nudge the ball over the line to secure a 2-0 lead for the Wildcats.
The Hornets battled back in the second half with an individual effort from Dylan Tritton in the 46th minute. He weaved into the center of Guyer’s defense and snuck a low shot from 30 yards out past Guyer keeper Cameron Emadi and inside the left post to draw Azle (16-6-3) to within a goal at 2-1.
With Guyer earning a free kick from 18 yards out in the 63rd minute, Diamond rebuilt the Wildcats’ two-goal buffer when he punched a low shot through traffic and inside the left post.
Jake Manley looked as if he had put the game out of reach four minutes later with a well-placed shot from distance that ricocheted in off the left post to give the Wildcats a 4-1 advantage, but the Hornets’ Shaun Miltner added a goal in the 69th minute.
The Wildcats will play Wichita Falls Rider at 7 p.m. Thursday at Guyer.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873.