MIDLOTHIAN — Although it might seem like it at the moment, especially after a tough two-week stretch, the sky is not falling on the heads of the Indians soccer team. Even though the Tribe has not won a game in two weeks and the nil-nil draw Friday evening against neighboring Midlothian marked the third-straight tie for the boys in green and white, Waxahachie still holds its own destiny in regards to a 10-5A District Championship.
The last win for the Indians came in 5-0 fashion Feb. 10 against Lancaster. Since then, Waxahachie has suffered its first loss of the season — 1-0 against district-leading Mansfield Lake Ridge — and draws against Mansfield Summit, Red Oak and, most recently, Midlothian. Friday also marked the second game and fifth consecutive half that the Indians have not found the back of the opposing net.
However, none of that bothers Waxahachie Head Coach Seth Riley.
The Indians created quite a few opportunities on the chilly pitch in Midlothian, as the Tribe possessed the ball for much of the second half. Behind each one of those opportunities there seemed to also be the same catalyst — 5-foot-3 forward, Gama Chavez.
It was Chavez who raced down the sideline with 27:34 to play in the match and found an open Rodolfo Garduno in front of the Panther net. The shot by Garduno was deflected right to fellow Indian, Jordy Ortiz, who also had his subsequent shot deflected by a flailing Panther defender.
"It is amazing what he can do with his size. People and even some colleges worry about him being little, but you just have to watch him play," said Riley of Chavez. "That's why I call him 'Little Messi' because he just creates so much. These guys we just played know him so they understand and they aren't surprised, but even still he will surprise you. He is hard to take off the field."
Several times it was also Chavez who played a loose ball into the Midlothian corner that resulted in a Waxahachie corner kick — much like the one with 11 seconds left that resulted in a jump ball where three players went up, three players came down, and the ball was in the back of the Panther net.
Unfortunately, the referee saw it fit to call a direct kick foul in favor of the Panthers, as he believed an Indian defender jumped into the Midlothian keeper, which caused him to fall.
According to soccerrules.org, the foul can be called if a player jumps "at an opponent in a careless or reckless manner or using excessive force. This includes jumping for a header if an opponent is carelessly or recklessly bumped, and jumping at the goalkeeper."
Alas, the goal did not count. This time.
When asked if the lack of offensive production worried him as the Indians begin their final push toward a deep playoff run, Riley answered with a confident "No."
"Three of those four teams, besides us, are three of the best defending teams in our district. Sometimes in those matches you look for goals using set piece to maybe get those opportunities. That is where we are really strong and we still are strong but they have done a good job of defending us really well on those," Riley explained. "You can't always look at if you were scoring or not because it's more of a matter of all are we creating chances? And we are definitely creating chances. We just have to keep grinding and those goals will come and, hopefully, when they do come it is at the right time. In the end we did what we needed to do, at least in this long stretch, and now we just need to finish off what we started and hopefully we are playing for something bigger against Lake Ridge."
Waxahachie (12-1-4, 5-1-4) will now enter a stretch of three games against the bottom three teams in District 10-5A — Mansfield Legacy, Lancaster, and Mansfield Timberview. The three have combined to allow 78 goals, while scoring just 32, during district play. The Indians and goalkeeper Kade Tomlinson still lead the district with just four goals allowed. Tomlinson has allowed only eight goals this season, which also leads all 10-5A goalkeepers.
Following that three-game stretch, Waxahachie will then square off with the only team to hand the Tribe a loss this season. If all things hold as they are now in the standings, Waxahachie will enter the March 10 match trailing Mansfield Lake Ridge by two points with a chance to win — or lose — a district championship. If the Indians were to win the District 10-5A crown, it would be the first in program history.
Lake Ridge and Midlothian still have to play each other, which, at least for one night, might very well have Indian fans cheering for their neighbors in blue. The Panthers won the first match 2-0 on Feb. 1.
"Either way, if we take care of what we need to on our own and take care of business then hopefully that last game against Lake Ridge is for something," Riley said. "Just going back to last year, we were one of the only top teams in the district to beat all of the teams that we should have beat. The other top teams tied or lost to somebody below them that they shouldn't have. We just had to beat the teams we were supposed to beat. We have that mindset this year."
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith