DESOTO — Red Oak's 1-0 finish against Dallas Molina High School, the first of two Ellis County soccer battles Friday at DeSoto Eagle Stadium, was a win of postseason-altering proportions.
Especially for a Lady Hawk team that advanced to the regional quarterfinal round of the UIL 5A playoffs for the fourth time in five years with one of the youngest rosters in District 10.
Despite the win, high-scoring Red Oak will enter regionals without one of its most valuable role players and its second leading scorer.
"There were about 50 seconds left," said Adam Prachyl, the head girls' soccer coach at Red Oak High School. "I didn't really see what was happening, all I saw was two girls fist fighting. They deserved the red cards. The other girl tried to jump in there and break it up and didn't throw any punches. I didn't think [her] red card was necessary, but it is what it is. We'll lose two key starters in the next round and have to figure out what we're going to do."
With less than a minute left in the second half, Madison Humphrey and Samantha Morgan's on-field scrap with a Dallas Molina player earned all three red cards and ejections. Red Oak's duo, according to the 2016-2017 UIL Soccer Playoff Information Packet, will miss the regional quarterfinal matchup with either Mansfield Lake Ridge or Sunset High Schools.
The document states that player misconduct point system is in effect for the playoffs as well as for the regular season and players start the post-season competition with a clean slate. A student’s cumulative card points return to zero after they sit out the number of games specified.
Yellow cards accumulate zero points and red cards gather five and carry a minimum penalty of a one missed game per each card. A maximum of two can be earned in a game.
The Lady Hawks may have to lean on its mixed core of players — girls like rookies like sophomores Sabrina Cruz and Zoie Shaw and veterans like senior Victoria Garza and junior Maliyah Mendoza — to help bridge the gap.
Humphrey was second on the team in points (26) and goals (13) and first in assists (13). Morgan was fourth (18), fourth (11) and third (7), respectively.
Though Humphrey went scoreless Friday night, she had a pair of near-misses that struck the top bar of the goal. Fellow sophomore Makayla Rushing netted the only Red Oak score of the match. More than Rushing's first half double-deke-turned-dribbler goal, though, the Lady Hawks defense — specifically it's back line – may have been the real hero of the game after allowing only seven shots on goal.
According to Prachyl, senior goalkeeper Ashlynn Pritchett wasn't too shabby, either.
"She's played well all year and we've got a lot of confidence in her," Prachyl said. "She's a leader and a captain and kind of what keeps our team together. She stepped up this game, no doubt. Both she and our defense played really well and played as much of a part in the win as the offense."
Pritchett closed the match by swatting away one shy of a half dozen kicks for a game-high five saves.
The (15-4, 12-0) Lady Jaguars were the District 12-5A undefeated No. 1 seed and had outscored their last five opponents 52-4. Of the 19 games Dallas Molina played during the 2016-17 season, 12 opponents scored two or fewer goals.
In addition to holding Dallas Molina scoreless in the area round matchup, she batted away a handful of nearly well-placed goals by the Lady Jaguars. It was her 11th shutout of the year and fifth during the Lady Hawks' 10-game stretch.
The Lady Hawks will face the winner of Friday's Mansfield Lake Ridge High School-Woodrow Wilson High School matchup Tuesday. Woodrow Wilson, the District 12-5A No. 4 seed, defeated Samuell High School 5-4 in the area round and Mansfield Lake Ridge, the District 10-5A No. 2 seed, shoutout Cleburne High School 3-0.
"They've got a good goalkeeper and we've got two key players out, so we're going to struggle without them," Prachyl said. "We do have a lot of youth that's been a positive this season. These girls play hard as a team and my sophomores play just as hard as my seniors and are just as mature, most of the time. Like I said, it is what it is. We're going to move on, keep working hard and try to win the next round."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI