PALMETTO — As the Braden River High boys soccer team trotted off the field last week, its players were visibly disappointed by the final outcome.
For the second time this season, Braden River faced off against Palmetto in a key district matchup. And, for the second time this season, the host Tigers won the upper hand — rallying back in the second half to defeat the Pirates 4-2 in Class 4A-District 10 action Jan. 6.
But if you ask Braden River coach Janjay Gehndyu, the scoreboard wasn’t entirely reflective of the Pirates’ effort on the field.
“We’re coming along,” Gehndyu said. “These guys have come a long way. We’re looking to do bigger and better things. It’s all a practice match until the district tournament. That’s all we’re looking for is the district tournament. Once we get in there we’ll make some noise.”
The Pirates showed marked improvement from their 4-0 loss to the Tigers earlier this season thanks in part to a solid defensive effort, which held Palmetto to seven shots on goal in the first period.
Leading the charge for Braden River was junior midfielder A.J. Harris, who had arguably his best performance this season, helping create a number of scoring opportunities for the Pirates.
“I was getting wide and my team was helping me out by getting open for me,” Harris said. “I’ve just been doing what they’ve been teaching me in the practices and its been working out for me.”
“A.J. Harris came out of nowhere tonight,” he said. “He really stepped up on defense for us tonight. We always have guys that always play well, but he’s one of those guys that was an exception tonight. He’s someone we weren’t expecting and he’s actually filling in and becoming a player that we need.”
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, when midfielder Ryan Rawlings found the back of the net off a missed shot by midfielder Matt Wagner. Palmetto responded in the 31st minute, when midfielder Jose Zamudio fired a shot just over the head of Braden River’s goalkeeper.
Braden River reclaimed the lead to open the second period when forward Jordan Parkerojeda fired off a shot, while Palmetto goalkeeper Brandon Tarpley was caught outside the box. The Tigers tied the game at 2-2 in the 50th minute on a similar shot by midfielder Brandon Waddy.
Zamudio added a pair of goals in the final 15 minutes of regulation to secure the win for Palmetto.
“We got into our tactics tonight,” Gehndyu said. “We wanted to give them a little havoc and obviously that happened in the first half. The whistle didn’t go our way the second half, so that’s understandable. That’s just part of the game.
“We’re good now, but we’ve got to get better,” he added. “Our record doesn’t show it, but these guys have gotten better. We’ve just had some unlucky bounces throughout the whole season. So, hopefully, when we get into the district tournament, it just all clicks and we can go from there.”
Braden River, who followed up its loss with a 2-1 district win over Seminole Osceola Jan. 8, returns to action at 8 p.m., tonight at home versus DeSoto County.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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