Trailing 1-0 at the end of the first half after Sprayberry’s Collin Schalk scored with 31 seconds on the clock, Kell coach David Penny moved senior Lukas Maher from his left back position into the midfield to start the second half.
“We needed help in our midfield, and Lukas is the second-fastest guy we have out there,” Penny said. “It was a tactical decision to get some more speed up front, and it worked out.”
Roughly 20 minutes into the second half, Penny got the results he was looking for.
Tyler Druhot sent a deep pass down the middle of the field, which Maher caught up to. He then blasted a 15-yard shot past Sprayberry’s reserve goalkeeper, Mackenzie Brackett, knotting the score at 1-all in the 59th minute.
Maher played another pivotal role less than 2 minutes later to help seventh-ranked Kell (14-3, 12-2) take the lead. He made a crossing pass from the right side to a wide-open Anthony Vongdara, who was stationed about 12 yards out in front of the goal. Vongdara collected the ball and drilled a shot to the left corner of the net, giving the Longhorns a 2-1 advantage in the 60th minute.
“We needed to score,” Maher said about Kell’s halftime deficit. “Coach put me in at striker in the second half hoping I could make something happen, and we did. This was a big game. I came here from another school, so this is my only year on varsity. The team won region last year, and I wanted to be a part of this year’s championship.”
Kell’s aggressive style throughout the game showed how determined it was to win consecutive titles and post its fifth straight win. The Longhorns outshot the Yellow Jackets (8-9-1, 6-8) 25-8, including 12-3 in the first half.
“We wanted to win back-to-back region championships,” Penny said. “We wanted to play our style and possess the ball as much as possible and find our forwards early. Any chance to shoot that’s good, we’ll take it.”
The Longhorns nearly got on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute, when Brian San Nicolas headed in a goal following a free kick, but the score was called off due to an offsides penalty.
After several failed first-half scoring attempts for Kell, Sprayberry finally caught a break when Schalk battled a defender for the ball after a deep pass down the center. Kell goalkeeper Tyler Prince came out to contest Schalk, but he misplayed the ball as he collided with a teammate.
Schalk collected the ball, which was still bouncing towards the goal, and put it in for an easy score for a 1-0 Sprayberry in the 39th minute.
Sprayberry nearly went ahead 2-1 roughly 10 minutes into the second half. Schalk’s shot bounced Prince and began trickling towards the goal. However, a Kell defender cleared the ball before it could cross the goal line.
“I’m proud of the boys,” Sprayberry coach Heath Merrill said. “They played well. The way the game went, it felt like we could have won. It was a good, competitive region game. Kell’s a good team.”
Sprayberry’s starting goalkeeper, Eric Aguirre, finished with one save, while Brackett collected two.
Out of playoff contention, the Yellow Jackets saw their season come to a close with the loss.