HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Bronchos can’t find an equalizer against Keller

ABILENE A first-half goal was all Keller High needed to get past the Odessa High boys soccer team in a Class 6A area round match Tuesday at Shotwell Stadium.

The Indians looked to maintain the positive momentum after finding the back of the net, but the Bronchos adjusted accordingly to avoid any other scores.

Odessa High saw its season come to a close in the second round of the 2022 playoffs with a 1-0 loss, while Keller will advance to face Hurst L.D. Bell or El Paso Socorro in the regional quarterfinals.

Broncho coach Eliseo Ortiz said his team keyed in on how effective Keller was at putting passes together in the second half of their matchup.

“If you get beat, you’ve got to just go on to the next play,” Ortiz said. “I think they did that well, they never gave up.

“I think that’s the thing that showed that we kind of stopped them a little bit.”

Keller showed how efficient its attacking could be in the first half, sending various passes forward to force the Bronchos to drop back defensively.

The Indians broke through 20 minutes into the half when a lobbed pass from Ryan Sullivan down the right wing found Maddox Mallery.

His low shot went in close to the right post of the Odessa High goal.

Keller’s offense grew in confidence after the opening score, but couldn’t add on before the halftime break.

Odessa High strengthened its defensive stance through the second half, with Ethan Wagner playing an important role in cutting off long passes from reaching midfielders on the wing.

The Bronchos had to save a shot from going in about 12 minutes after the greak, when Mallery tried to push in a loose ball off a corner kick.

Just as the ball reached the goal line, an Odessa High defender intervened to keep the deficit at one.

Odessa High managed to break through the Keller back line late in the contest when Camilo Nicolas used bursts of speed down the right wing, but they couldn’t get clean shots off.

Ortiz said he was pleased with the effort his team gave against one of the top teams in the area.

“They’re highly-ranked for a reason, they’re a very good team,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think we’re too far off.

“We asked them to fight and compete and it was there.”

Keller coach Jason Bates said his team transitioned well on defense when the Bronchos started to break away down the wings.

He saw his team create consistent chances through the match and he knows it will be important to finish those.

“I’m sure that Socorro or L.D. Bell are going to be just as good as this team, if not better,” Bates said. “Every round gets tougher, it is what it is.

“We went four rounds deep last year and we gotta win the next one, just worried about that.”

Odessa High finished its season with a 10-8-5 record, claiming a bi-district title.

Ortiz saw the impact his team’s seniors had on his younger players, giving them a strong base to build on in the future.

The Bronchos have advanced to the playoffs for seven straight seasons, but Ortiz wants to see his players continue to fight for more.

“It feels good, we’re doing something right,” Ortiz said. “The point is, we’re trying to win more playoff games.”

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