BOYS SOCCER: Odessa High edged by El Paso Socorro in bi-district playoff

MIDLAND Odessa High didn’t have the playoff return it dreamed of.

Most of the team returned from last year when it was upended by Arlington Sam Houston in the first round. Unfortunately, the Bronchos couldn’t avoid the same fate this season.

El Paso Socorro downed Odessa High 2-0 in a Class 6A bi-district playoff matchup Friday night at Grande Communications Stadium.

For the first 30 minutes of the match, both teams weren’t playing aggressively. That was until the Bulldogs saw their game-breaking chance.

After the Bronchos lost the ball in the midfield, a caravan of Bulldogs ran down the far side of the field — leading to an open Johan Ramirez Leyva powering the ball into the net from about eight yards out.

“We weren’t able to score and defensively we couldn’t fix a couple of things and they got that first goal,” Odessa High head coach Eliseo Ortiz said. “When we fixed it, it was already too late.”

As much as Odessa High (9-9-3) pressed on, Socorro had a wall around its goalkeeper — holding the Bronchos to three shots on goal in the game.

“It’s always good know that your kids strive for something,” Socorro head coach Alejandro Delgado said. “We always try to see weaknesses in other teams, sometimes we can exploit it and sometimes it doesn’t work out that well, but today it seemed like it did.”

El Paso Socorro (15-6-2) scored its second goal just as Odessa High started to find a crack in that wall.

Bulldogs’ midfielder Adam Valles found some space just outside of the penalty box and curled a shot around a Bronchos’ defender.

Odessa High senior goalkeeper Jordan Peralta reacted late and with the spin put on the shot, he wasn’t able to get a clean save. The ball rolled off of his hands and trickled over the goal line. That proved to take the wind out of Odessa High’s sails as it didn’t mount another scoring chance the rest of the game.

“We played well at times; we just didn’t play well the whole time,” Ortiz said. “Once the second goal was in, we tried to fight, but we just couldn’t get anything in the goal. We needed that first goal to try to figure something out or get something else going and we never did.”

As the game came to an end, several Bronchos fell to the turf knowing their high school career is over. Odessa High has 11 seniors on its team that will leave a void for the 2018 squad.

“We need to work harder,” Ortiz said. “The whole teams needs to do some things better. I hope there’s a bitter taste in our mouths and it doesn’t fade away quickly. Hopefully the third time’s a charm for us next year.”

One of those seniors, Peralta said everything about this year was memorable.

“From day one, what’s not memorable of all of this when you’re a senior,” Peralta said. “If anything, just walking on the field and just remembering the last game I played with these guys.”

In his postgame speech, Ortiz walked over to each of his players and gave them a hug while his eyes welled up.

It was in that moment where each of them knew it was real — that this was the last time this group would play together.

“It’s hard to let them go,” Ortiz said. “Whenever you have kids that believe in you it’s hard to see them cry and see them upset.

“I was really hoping for more for this group because they’ve done a lot and they believe in what we’ve been doing. This is a special group for me, I really love this group. They realize they can play with very good teams. We just need to do it for 80 minutes.”