Balderas buries Raiders

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Following the three-goal explosion to start the girls’ game, the Tigers took a different approach, saving most of their scoring for the second half of play.

But the hosts similarly opened the scoring in the back end of the district-doubleheader against Rice Consolidated, with David Dominguez putting a corner home, narrowly beating the keeper with just under 17 minutes to play until halftime.

There were some other chances but for the most part, it was an even game because of the defense supplied by the 10 Raiders dropping back in protection of their own net.

Sealy head coach Juan Perez noted seeing that style of defense brought him back a ways to the days when he utilized a 10-man defense. However, in this game, he was able to use his experience against that resistance and urged his players to get more space.

Another thing that he said helped make things clearer to his boys was a mistake in net by David Gomez.

He leaped from his crease to make a play on the ball only to have a Rice attacker poke it right away and tap it nicely into the goal to tie the game with 28 minutes left to go.

But in that moment, Perez felt something turn in his team, and he made a substitution to capitalize on the momentum swing.

“The mistake helped a lot because we felt like it’s not possible, we got angry,” Perez said. “So we switched right there, I made two subs and everything changed.”

Their backs were against the wall and Erick Balderas felt only one way about it.

Perez mentioned he had been telling Balderas to avoid attempting to drive the ball all the way to the goal when he’s got the leg to shoot from further away.

“I was asking him to try from way back because he kept going all the way in but lost the ball,” Perez said. “I told him, ‘just kick to score.’”

Balderas took that advice to heart and worked the ball to the outside and managed some separation from his defender.

Although he was near the sideline on the 10-yard line, he turned and fired a shot on net, finding the back of the net before the goalkeeper returned to earth from his last-second attempt at a save.

He turned right around and headed back to midfield, seemingly just getting back to work with no time to provide a celebration.

Before the clock got to the single-digit minute markers, Luis Arriaga was in the right place at the right time, volleying a corner kick that was initially saved but rebounded right back at him, allowing him to put a different angle on the next hit out the air, serving it right into the net past three outstretched Raiders.

The ball kept finding its way to Rice’s defensive end, and it was again at the feet of Balderas who similarly worked the area near the sideline on the 10-yard line and he turned and fired a shot just as hard as his first, ending in the same exact result and a 4-1 lead with under five minutes to play.

All over and done with right?

Wrong.

Arnol Antunez picked up the ball over the middle of the field and had a clear path to the net which he took, putting emphasis on the game with a rocket of his own to the top-right corner of the net with 7.7 seconds showing on the clock to secure the first district win of the year for the Tigers.

That added goal in the waning seconds will only help the district standings that take into consideration the goal-total amassed by the end of the season and Perez knew not only that those points would be important but especially coming over a team that he knew would take everything they had.

“I knew this game was going to be hard to win so I was very careful,” Perez stated.

But with each goal that went on his side of the scoreboard, he became less and less worried and before he knew it he was shaking hands with the reporter of the Sealy News, talking about a win.

“The lesson from today is that we cannot underestimate anybody,” Perez said. “Rice is a first-year program but I like the way they play, a lot.”

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