The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 26, 2014

EHS boys win, but fail to make playoffs

By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Plainsmen held up their end of the deal. Ponca City didn’t.

Enid’s boys soccer team, needing a win and a Stillwater loss to the Wildcats to advance to a second-straight postseason, rallied in a hot-tempered second half to beat Sapulpa 2-1 and complete a senior night sweep after a historic 3-0 Pacers win.

But 70 miles away, Ponca City was unable to exploit its own senior night momentum for an upset win over Stillwater, falling 5-1 to the Pioneers and ending the Plainsmen’s season in the process.

Junior forward Felix Mora scored twice on breakaway passes in the second half, first from senior Armando Gutierrez to tie the game at 1-1 with 26:16 left, and again from senior Daniel Perez with 17:44 remaining, tucking in the game-winner to Sapulpa keeper Ethan Tanton’s left.

But just as the win was a bittersweet one, so too was Mora’s night, which ended early when the junior forward was goaded into a shoving match with Sapulpa’s Josh Pickering.

With just over two minutes left, Pickering, who already had been warned for physical play against sophomore Pedro Braga, shoved Mora in the back as the Enid forward jogged to pick up a ball out of bounds. Mora turned and shoved back, and both were red-carded, meaning a likely opening-round suspension for Mora had Enid advanced to the playoffs.

“It was boiling,” said Enid head coach Craig Liddell. “Our guys should have just kept their heads and walked away from everything, kept playing, kept their hands down, but we kind of played at that level. We dropped our high standards, and that’s why I’m kind of frustrated tonight.”

The Plainsmen (7-6, 3-4 in 6A-4), despite losing nine seniors from 2013’s playoff team, had hopes for a second-straight trip after a 4-0 start, but lost six of their final nine games to finish the season. Stillwater’s win over Ponca City put the Plainsmen in a tie with the Pioneers, which Stillwater won on both the teams’ head-to-head match and on district goal differential.

“When we got this group in July, no one would have been saying, ‘Oh this group’s going to the playoffs, for sure,’” Liddell said. “We knew we had talent, but we were young. … They made us proud all year.”

In what was effectively a celebration of the best season in team history, the Pacers (10-3, 5-2) won a girls record 10th game and beat Sapulpa for the first time in the girls team’s history, capping a run that already had them locked into a third-place finish in 6A-4. Enid’s 10-3 regular season also was only the second double-digit season win total for Enid soccer, boys or girls.

“Playoffs was our main goal at the beginning of the season, but to see it happen is almost a miracle,” said senior defender Sarah Blakely, one of 23 players celebrated on senior night. “My freshman year, I didn’t even know about playoffs. I just wasn’t focused on it, and just the turnaround from then to now is ridiculous. It’s awesome.”

Three seniors scored for the Pacers on senior night. Blakely put enough curl on a free kick to fool Sapulpa goalkeeper Cierra Kent, who took a step forward, then back but only quickly enough to deflect the shot off the post and in to give Enid a 1-0 lead 5:18 into the game on its first shot.

Sophie Holle knuckled in her team-record 13th goal of the season on an assist from Brianna Burrow to push the lead to 2-0. Shelley Mueller scored on a penalty shot with 16:51 left.

The Pacers await their first-ever postseason game, May 6 against 6A-3’s second-place finisher.