BOYS SOCCER: Odessa High looks for playoff breakthrough against El Paso Socorro

Throughout the 2018 season, the Odessa High boys soccer team has had to deal with some growing pains.

The Bronchos have several new starters on the team and had to work to find cohesion and to get the results they wanted.

After qualifying for the playoffs in its last district game, Odessa High enters the playoffs hoping to win the program’s first postseason matchup in a decade.

The Bronchos face El Paso Socorro at 8 tonight at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland in a Class 6A bi-district playoff.

This is the third matchup between the teams in the past calendar year, with both previous games also taking place in Midland.

Earlier this season, the Bulldogs defeated the Bronchos in the President’s Cup Tournament and last year, Odessa High’s season was ended by Socorro in the bi-district round.

“I think it benefits us the most because it’s hard to beat a team twice,” Odessa High head coach Eliseo Ortiz said about facing the Bulldogs again in the playoffs. “I feel like we’re more familiar with them this year and that helps the team. They have a winning tradition; they have a very good program and a very good coach so I think it helps us because now we know them better.”

Odessa High (13-11-1) would end a 10-year drought without a postseason victory with a win tonight, having last won a playoff game in 2008.

The Bronchos are looking for their 10th postseason victory in program history tonight with eight playoff wins coming from 2003 to 2005.

Ortiz, a 2003 Odessa High graduate, was a forward on the team for its first two playoff wins. He’s hoping the next generation of Bronchos can have similar success.

“The boys learned a lot of lessons by losing games and winning games too … I think the boys are ready,” Ortiz said. “It’s just time for them to go produce.”

El Paso Socorro (17-3-0) finished as the No. 2 seed in District 1-6A and lost one game to each of the other three playoff teams from its district.

Ortiz said that just like the Bronchos, the Bulldogs have a younger team and are building up a crop of young talent.

Odessa High is hoping its younger impact players such as sophomores Cain Cordova, Alan Rubio and Brandon Bernal can draw from the experience of starting 20 or more games this season.

“I’m just going to do my thing, do what I know how to do and just keep doing what I’ve been doing and just try to help my team win this playoff game,” Cordova said.

This is the Bronchos’ third straight No. 3 playoff seed — forcing them to be drawn against another tough opponent in the first round.

Two years ago, Odessa High fell to Arlington Sam Houston in the bi-district round. The Texans have made the state tournament two of the past three years.

Facing top competition from the Metroplex and El Paso, two rich soccer areas, has given Odessa High a chance to see what level it needs to perform at to win playoff games.

“It could be either my last game, or it could be moving on in the playoffs, something we haven’t had in years,” Odessa High senior Luis Salazar said. “We want to keep going in this; we don’t want to stop here at the first step.

“We’ve found ourselves, we’ve connected with each other, we’ve talked, we’ve learned, we’ve had mistakes but we fixed them and we’re moving on as a whole team, not just individually.”

“I think we’re peaking at the right moment,” Ortiz added. “We’re healthy; the young ones have gotten a lot of experience.”