Odessa High found a way to get it done.
Despite not getting the start it wanted and not playing as fluid as other times throughout district — the Bronchos did what good teams can do — win under those circumstances.
Odessa High walked out of Ratliff’s Turf Field Saturday afternoon with all three points, using two second-half goals to defeat Amarillo Tascosa 2-1 in District 2-6A action.
The win clinches a playoff spot for the Bronchos (8-6-3 overall, 4-1-1-1 District 2-6A, 15 points) who now sit one point behind first place in district. Odessa High has games against Midland Lee and Midland High — the teams tied atop the standings still to come before the end of the regular season.
Odessa High started sluggishly, allowing Tascosa to assert its offense. Before the game was eight minutes old, the Rebels (9-5-2, 1-1-0-5, five points) took a lead on a goal from striker Thang Kop.
“You could tell they were tired, you could tell the wind was a factor, you could tell the fact that we were down was a factor,” Odessa High head coach Eliseo Ortiz said about his team’s early effort. “They fought. I’m just proud of them.”
The Bronchos controlled possession for the rest of the first half, but couldn’t find that finishing touch that Ortiz was looking for. About five minutes before the break, Ortiz made a tactical change — subbing in Ulises Martinez and Jesus Jimenez to give his team a spark. That substitution continued into the beginning of the second half where the Bronchos offense began to generate chances.
“Any of those guys could be starters at any day,” Ortiz said. “We really don’t have set starters.”
As pressure mounted around its net, a Tascosa defender committed a hand ball inside the penalty box eight minutes into the second half.
Bronchos’ midfielder Heriberto Ceniceros took the penalty kick and drove it down the center of the goal — going under Tascosa’s goalkeeper and into the net.
“We worked hard in practice and we worked hard here,” Ceniceros said. “We respect each other’s teams and we came out on top with the win.”
The Rebels’ short bench of three players came into play in the following minutes as the Bronchos started to mount chance after chance to take their first lead of the game.
That opportunity came midway through the second half when Luis Salazar found the ball at his feet 12 yards from goal.
Salazar stutter-stepped to fake out a defender and curled a shot around him. The shielding defender made Tascosa’s goalie react late and he only got a fingertip to the ball. It then caught the left post and ricocheted into the net.
“It gave my team some air,” Salazar said about his goal. “It gave us a little bit more confidence so we can get back on our feet and get that win. We all work as a team, we all stay as a team and we win as a team.”
Some anxious moments followed Odessa High’s go-ahead marker with Tascosa getting scoring chances in front of Odessa High goalkeeper Jordan Peralta, including hitting the post with 16 minutes left in the game.
The Rebels best chance came with around 15 minutes left in the match when the referee whistled Peralta for holding the ball too long in the penalty box after a save — giving them an indirect free kick from just inside the box.
Peralta made a diving save from that attempt.
After the final whistle, Odessa High rejoiced knowing its first goal of the season has been accomplished.
“Whenever it didn’t look good, whenever we gave up a goal and we had to get two to make playoffs and stay in the district hunt — it’s what good teams do — when they aren’t playing too fluid, you find a way,” Ortiz said. “It was a hard game. (Tascosa) is a good team and we found a way to win and we found a way to keep that lead after they had a very good start.”
The Bronchos return to action against Midland Lee at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ratliff Stadium.
Odessa High clinched a playoff berth in a penalty-kick loss to Permian a year ago in its second-to-last district game. To have this weight off its shoulders earlier this season could prove to be huge.
“We feel real confident right now,” Salazar said. “We’re going for more.”