STAFFORD – The Fulshear boys’ soccer team had to adjust its game moving up from 4A to 5A this season. And while the Chargers were able to make it back to the playoffs, they went toe-to-toe with one of the top 5A teams in the area in Friendswood.
Fulshear played tough defense and hanged with Friendswood for most of the match, but the Chargers couldn’t muster enough offense and fell 3-1 in a 5A area round matchup on Tuesday night at Stafford’s Spartan Stadium.
The Mustangs advanced to the Region III-5A quarterfinals against Galena Park, while the Chargers see their season end after a successful run in 5A.
“Four years ago, we started a project, and this one hurts,” Fulshear head coach Arturo Trevino said, holding back tears. “Hats off to Friendswood, they dominated us for long stretches of the game. They touched the ball and had long possessions.
“We made it hard on them for a while, but at the end, they came out on top and the best team won, no excuses.”
Friendswood took possession early in the match and it paid off in the third minute, as senior midfielder Louis Catchpole got open and took a couple of shots, with the rebound grazing off the hands of Fulshear junior goalkeeper Ian Gibbs for an early 1-0 lead.
The Chargers didn’t get down after giving up the quick goal. Fulshear started to tighten up defensively, getting in the Mustangs’ passing lanes and keeping them from mounting a lot more offensive chances.
Fulshear got the equalizer in the 28th minute, as freshman forward Adrian Nieto-Saul got possession in the open field, split between two Friendswood defenders to put the ball into an empty net to tie the match at a goal apiece.
But in the second half, Friendswood kept the pressure on offensively with a few scoring chances.
Gibbs was strong in net for the Chargers, despite limping with a bad ankle and suffered a knee injury on a save that kept him out for one minute in the half.
“This was the second game where (Gibbs) was out there keeping us in games, and I’m very proud of him,” Trevino said.
In the 68th minute, Catchpole got free and was taken down in the attack box by Fulshear junior defender Bryce Pope, resulting in a penalty kick. Catchpole was able to get Gibbs to go to his left before he put it in the low right corner for the goal and a 2-1 lead.
The Chargers tried to push for another equalizing goal, but faced another obstacle when Pope was called for his second yellow card in the 72nd minute, leaving Fulshear a man down for the rest of the match.
Friendswood capitalized on the man advantage with two minutes left, as senior forward Chris Cooper scored on a deflected shot that got by Gibbs for the insurance goal to send the Mustangs to the next round.
The Mustangs moved to 21-3-2 on the season, while the Chargers see their season end with a record of 11-7-4.
Trevino was emotional with his departing senior class, but is hopeful that with his returning players and junior varsity players, he has established a tradition that can carry the Chargers to future success.