Red Oak needed a draw. A win would've been nice, but a draw with Midlothian on the soccer pitch Tuesday evening was all that stood between the Lady Hawks and an outright district championship.
There were moments, minutes really, in the second half when that outcome looked bleak, too.
Red Oak entered the final District 14-5A finale leading back-to-back defending champion Joshua by two points in the 14-5A standings on Joshua, 19-17. For anyone asking how points are awarded, a win is worth two points (three in some districts) and a draw is worth one.
The Lady Hawks began the day with a 9-1-1 record, while Joshua followed at 8-2-1. Midlothian (7-4-0 in 14-5A) and (6-5-0) Cleburne rounded out the playoff-bound teams in the district.
Unbeknownst to the Lady Hawks, the Lady Owls had a three-goal lead at the half in their contest, meaning a loss would drop Red Oak into a tie atop the district.
With all of that in mind, Midlothian led Red Oak, 2-1, as the game entered the 51st minute Tuesday. The Lady Panthers nearly extended the lead to two goals around that same time and then just missed wide left on a short shot from the right with 17:44 to play in the match.
The missed opportunity led — quickly — to the Lady Hawks countering upfield with numbers and Makayla Rushing being fouled in the box, earning a free kick.
As she lined up from 9 yards out, Rushing said she felt confident, noting that she took about 30 penalty kicks on Sunday.
"I was more excited for the shot than nervous," Rushing said. "I knew that I was going to put it in the corner, so I just looked at the goalie and placed it."
She added, "I knew that the shot would probably determine whether we left with a win or a tie and I knew that I had to put it away for my team."
Rushing's right foot sent the ball along the turf and tucked just inside the right post. Her Ellis County-leading 38th goal of the season knotted the match at 2-all — exactly where the Lady Hawks needed to be.
The score held through a late Lady Panthers rush and the final buzzer.
Red Oak ended the regular season with a 20-2-2 and 9-1-2 mark in district play.
The Lady Hawks are also, and officially, the champions of 14-5A.
"It's always fun to win a district championship, especially when you work so hard for it all year," said Red Oak head girls' soccer coach Adam Prachyl. He disclosed that, in the fall, the coaching staff asked the returning Lady Hawks what were "some of the things we didn't do last year?"
He said the responses largely associated with off-the-field matters, such as not being on time to practice or working hard.
"We took care of those things and picked new team captains and this is exciting," Prachyl said. "To win a district outright is exciting and I'm excited for the girls because they deserve it...All of these girls work hard and love each other, and that's the main thing."