WICHITA FALLS — Battling swirling winds at Memorial Stadium for the second consecutive week, Denton had its chances against Wichita Falls Rider in the sectional round of the Class 4A playoffs Thursday.
But the Raiders scored three minutes in and secured that lead for the rest of the game on the way to a 1-0 victory, ending Denton’s playoff journey.
“It was a great step forward,” Denton coach Scott Heffley said. “Despite being disappointed tonight, I think when we have a chance to get away from the field for a second and look back on the year, everybody’s going to be really proud of what we were able to accomplish.
“We were in this game until the end. I’m really proud of the guys and really excited about next year. Despite losing some quality seniors and leaders, we are actually returning a lot of players.”
With the Raiders (19-3-2) earning a throw-in in the Broncos’ defensive zone, Cameron Dailey corralled a loose ball and lifted the Raiders’ first shot of the game over the mass of players and past Denton goalkeeper Christian Rodriguez to put the Broncos into the early hole.
“We’re disappointed to give that goal away so early, and it allowed them to do some things that benefited them and it put us under the gun from the very start,” Heffley said. “I thought we battled back really well. The first half I didn’t think we were at our best, but you have to credit Rider. They’re a fantastic team. They did what they needed to do to get the win, and our hats are off to them.”
The Broncos (10-9-5) had the wind at their backs in the opening half but couldn’t muster the high-quality scoring chances they had against Wichita Falls Hirschi in a 5-0 area-round victory.
Having competed in several tight matches leading up to Thursday’s game, the Broncos began to expose the Raiders’ defense in the second half with their speed.
Denton’s Michael Husbands and Feliciano Amaya each challenged the Raider goalkeeper with shots from distance, but they were unable to get their shots on goal.
The Broncos’ best chance came with just under four minutes remaining when Chris Torres took a free kick from the 24-yard line. His pass over the players at the top of the box found the Raiders’ keeper and rebounded out to Husbands, who sent a pass to the left side to Amaya, but his challenge drifted left of the goal and left both players laying incredulously on the ground.
“It’s a position that we didn’t like to be in, but it’s a position that we weren’t unfamiliar with,” Heffley said. “We’ve been down to high-class teams before, so I didn’t think anyone was ready to panic. We knew what we still had to do. I thought everybody left it all out on the field. I didn’t think one goal would win this game today, and it did.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.