The Belton Tigers Soccer took on Dallas Skyline at Jesuit’s Postell Stadium on Saturday afternoon in search of a first tournament championship.
Matters were handled after scoreless halves by way of penalty kicks.
Andres Martinez stopped Skyline’s final shot and Jake Gilbert booted in the golden PK, as the Tigers won 6-5.
Belton improved their record to 6-0 this season and takes on Copperas Cove on Tuesday at Wilson Kerzee Field.
The Tigers started off the first five minutes with solid midfield play from Camryn Gilmore, Edgar Soto, Alexis Ibarra, Oscar Vargas, Mark Diaz, and Luis Barrios.
The physicality picked up in the first 10 minutes of the game, with a series of fouls called over the course of the half.
Belton had the first corner kick opportunity in the game’s 11th minute. Ibarra’s kick was caught up in the wind, bent over the goal box, and out the back line for a goal kick for Skyline.
The Tigers got great goalkeeping from Andres Martinez throughout contest, as he made back-to-back saves in the 12th minute.
Late in 14th minute, Gilbert had a point-blank opportunity that hit square off of the Skyline goalkeeper’s chest and out the back line for a goal kick.
Soto set up Gilmore on a good centering pass, but the shot was just left of the frame in the 16th minute.
In the 33rd minute, Isaac Martinez had a scoring opportunity at the top of the goal box, but the Skyline defense steered the ball away.
Soto’s masterful footwork was on display in the 36th minute, as he worked his way through five defenders before the sixth nudged the ball out of bounds.
The Tigers had the wind in the second half and continued to pepper the Skyline defense. In the 40th minute, Ibarra’s set up for Gilmore was headed just over the cross bar.
Gilbert came very close to getting the Tigers on the board in the 46th minute. Off of a free kick, Gilbert smashed a shot off of the goalkeeper, but couldn’t get back around to put in the rebound and the ball was knocked away.
Cade Wenberg steered the ball into a scoring opportunity in the 51st minute, as he charged through the defense but couldn’t get enough on a shot.
A pair of chances off of headers by Gilmore were mere inches off of the framework and ended up as goal kicks for Skyline.
Two bid saves by Andres Martinez led to scoring opportunities by Diaz and Gilmore. Gilmore’s shot went over the soccer crossbar and under the football crossbar for a goal kick.
Martinez dropped down to make a big save as the clock wound down to a scoreless regulation and penalty kicks.
The first shooter for Skyline went lower left past Andres Martinez to give them the first lead. Isaac Martinez nailed the equalizer into the lower right to end the first round at 1-1.
In the second round, the Skyline shooter hit the ball over the right side of the crossbar. Ivan Vargas found the gap over the crossbar between the soccer goal and the football uprights, as the penalty kick tally was at 1-1 after two rounds.
Skyline’s Gustavo Pena went upper right on their third shot and found the next to start the third round. Gilmore hit the center of the yawning net after the goalkeeper dove to his right to knot up the score at 2-2 after three rounds.
In the fourth round, the next Raider shooter went into the left corner and was successful. Ibarra was equal to the task on the lower right to tie game at 3-3 after four rounds.
Charles Sanchez went upper left on Andres Martinez to give Skyline the one-goal advantage. It was short-lived, as Soto pounded the ball into net to tie the match at 4-4 after five rounds.
Jose Martinez of Skyline went lower right of Andres Martinez and put the Raiders back ahead by a goal. Patrick Tosse was charged with keeping the Tigers alive and he blistered a shot to the right side to tie the contest at 5-5 after six rounds.
In the sixth round, Francisco Bernal tried to go low middle on Andres Martinez and the goalkeeper affectionately known as “Chicken Nugget” to his Tiger teammates, made a diving grab to give Gilbert a chance at the golden goal.
“There was so much pressure, but once I saved it and saw my teammates reaction, I was so relieved,” Andres Martinez said. “Watching the fans go crazy and the team tackles you. That’s a great feeling.”
Gilbert lined up the shot and pounded the ball into the net, springing his Belton teammates from the sidelines and into a big mass in front of the net to celebrate the penalty kick win. A big shot from big Jake and the Tigers hoisted the tournament trophy.
“The pressure was definitely on,” Soto said. “I had never been in a situation in penalty kicks to win a tournament before. Jake’s kick was a big way to write history for Belton Soccer. It was a real honor to be given this opportunity.”
It was also the first time in the 33-year history of the Belton Tiger Soccer program that they won a tournament championship, dating back to 1985.
The penalty kick portion of the match is something that the Tigers needed to prepare for, with the format of the nine-team District 12-6A.
“It is something that we have to prepare for,” Belton head coach Ben Bralley said. “In district, if we end in a tie, we head straight into penalty kicks. It gives our guys good practice. It’s great to come out with a win against a high-quality opponent. It makes everything better and prepares us for our district-opener on Tuesday at Wilson Kerzee against Copperas Cove.”