It wasn’t easy but the Permian boys soccer team found a way past El Paso Franklin in the bi-district round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

The Panthers defeated the Cougars 3-1 in extra time to clinch the bi-district title and advance to the area round of the playoffs Tuesday night at Ratliff Stadium.

Goals from Johnny Cuellar and Luis Alamo broke the deadlock to give Permian (15-5-4) the victory after both teams were tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation.

“Wow, what a game,” Permian head coach Luis Carmona said. “Both teams fought hard. Hats off to Franklin because they have a heck of a team. We went up 1-0 and they’re a fast team on the breakaway that if you give them a chance, they’ll capitalize and that’s what they did. We didn’t follow our second ball and they had a good shot. But we’ll take it. We’ve been battling injuries and our players battled through it. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Franklin finished the season at 14-9-1.

Permian players celebrate with the bi-district trophy after defeating El Paso Franklin Tuesday at Ratliff Stadium. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

“It was a close game,” Hernandez said. “Both teams had the opportunities to score. I believe Permian came away with the win because they could score and we couldn’t. Plain and simple.”

Both teams kept it close throughout the first half as neither side could find a breakthrough even though the two squads had their chances on goal.

Then, with 9:35 left in the half, Permian was awarded a penalty.

Ernesto Melendez wouldn’t disappoint as he scored from the spot and gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

However, Franklin found a way to equalize just before the half as Jakob Tarin found the back of the net with under two minutes to go.

“It was very important for us to score before halftime,” Hernandez said. “We told the team not to panic just because we got out of form a little bit in the first half. We just couldn’t score in the second half.”

The two teams were tied 1-1 at the break.

In the second half, Cuellar broke free for a scoring opportunity but he was whistled for being offside with 29 minutes remaining in the game.

The Cougars had a goal scoring opportunity in the form of a corner kick that ended up being denied by the Panthers as the contest remained tied.

Another Cougar shot on target was saved by Permian goalkeeper Enrique Cabello with 15 minutes to go.

Minutes later, he made another save as Franklin kept up its attack late in the game.

Neither team could find the game-winner before the 80 minutes of regulation were up.

Cueller’s goal with 3:35 left in the first half of extra time gave the Panthers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Permian’s Carlos Hernandez (23) and El Paso Franklin’s Sebastian Valdez (17) battle for the ball in the first half in a bi-district game Tuesday at Ratliff Stadium. Michael Bauer|Odessa American

“Man, it was a great accomplishment,” Cueller said. “We got the better of them and when I made that turn to shoot, it was amazing. It was beautiful.”

Alamo added a knockout punch with his goal in the second half of extra time.

“We can adjust pretty easy on the fly,” Carmona said. “We run about six or seven different formations. The guys know how to run them and respond. We played the counter at the end and it was just a matter time before we could isolate the one-on-one. We have the speed. We did a good job of controlling the ball and putting the ball in.”

The Panthers will face the winner of LD Bell-Keller Central in the area round Friday at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.

The time of that game is yet to be announced.