TULSA — The Tahlequah boys’ soccer team ended its 2013 season Tuesday night at the same place it began: the East Side Sports Complex.
Thanks to two goals from sophomore forward Andrew De La Paz, the No. 1 Tulsa East Central Cardinals defeated the Tigers, 3-1, in the opening round of the Class 5A soccer playoffs. The Tigers (7-7, 4-3 District 5A-3) opened their season in March with a 2-0 road loss to the Cardinals.
“We played very hard to the bitter end,” coach Gary McClure said. “This is the third time we’ve played East Central this year. Every time we make it closer and this was more evidence to that.”
The Tigers played East Central close in the first half, coming up short on back-to-back corner kicks and bouncing a direct kick off of the football goal’s crossbar late in the first half.
The Tigers’ lone goal came off of a 35-yard direct kick by sophomore George Bullard early in the second half. Bullard came within inches of scoring the tying goal five minutes later, but his header bounced off of the goal’s top post.
“We tend to rush things a little bit and sometimes try to kick it a little too hard,” McClure said. “If we could just touch it and place it, it would go in more often. If we can break that habit, we could put a few more in the net.”
Despite losing eight seniors to graduation, McClure is optimistic that next year’s team will build off of this year’s fourth place finish in district play.
“We played a lot of underclassmen as well,” he said. “We have a lot of underclassmen, so I think we worked the rotation enough to where it will minimize the pain.”
With the win, Tulsa East Central (11-3) advances to Friday night’s quarterfinals.
East Central 3, Tahlequah 1
TAHLEQUAH 0 1 1
EAST CENTRAL 2 1 3
Tahlequah: George Bullard (45:56)
East Central: Andrew De La Garza (14:25, 77:15), Jose Valdez (32:59)