Cullen Calderon’s goal in the 66th minute off an assist from Joey Gurney lifted the Scottsbluff boys soccer team past Gering 2-1 in the first round of the Class B, District 6 Tournament on Monday at the Landers Complex in Scottsbluff.
The win advances the No. 4-seeded Bearcats (10-9) into a semifinal match today against top-seeded Lexington.
The Bulldogs finished their season with a 7-11 record.
“Gering played great; we played sufficient,” Scottsbluff coach Nate Rock said. “We are a better team than we showed, but we played all right. They’ll grind it out on you – that’s what they’re good at. Sometimes it’s a game of inches and it went our way today.”
As usual, though, fans from both sides of the river got their money’s worth once again in the twin-city rivalry between the Bearcats and Bulldogs.
Scottsbluff struck first in the second half when senior Fernando Mendoza put the Bearcats on the board with a goal in the 54th minute to take a 1-0 advantage.
Gering, though, answered just four minutes later when Aaron Nietz scored on a header in the 59th minute to knot the score at 1-1.
“Our goal, I thought, was one of the prettiest I’ve seen in high school soccer,” Gering coach Justin Clark said of Nietz’ goal. “It was a great ball in from Jose [Hernandez]. Aaron stretched out about as full as he could just to get the touch on it and puts it in the back of the net.”
After tying the match midway through the second half, the Bulldogs seemed to have built up steam, shifting the momentum in the match. However, Rock knew Gering would need more than just one goal to win.
“You never can get too down or up in this game,” Rock said of the Gering goal. “It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems, and I figured one goal wasn’t going to be enough.”
He was right.
Calderon’s goal proved to be just enough to advance the Bearcats into today’s semifinal match with Lexington, the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Justin Beccera, who has been solid in goal all season for the Bearcats, said that Calderon’s go-ahead goal was a momentum booster.
“I was so excited,” Beccera said after seeing the goal go in. “Just knowing that they scored on me and tied the game, and then [Calderon] scoring just boosted my momentum. I knew I had to go out there and do it for him.”
Beccera went on to say that his team is confident for today’s match with Lexington, and that the Bearcats are hungry for a berth in the state tournament.
“Gering’s probably the toughest team right now and we beat them three times,” he said. “The other teams that are coming up like Lexington [today], I know they play to win, but we’re playing to go to state and we just want to get there.”
Rock echoed Beccera’s sentiments, and believes that Gering may have been the toughest team in the district tournament.
“I honestly told the guys that I think if we won this game [against Gering], we won the district,” Rock said. “I thought this would be the hardest game. We beat Gering three times in a row, and I think this was the district championship. I could be wrong, but. I knew it would be tough.”
Beccera finished the afternoon with six saves on seven shots on goal by Gering. Gering’s Dylan Weatherington allowed two goals on six shots.
Gering, though, held the 7-4 advantage on corner kicks.
“Congratulations to [Scottsbluff] for working hard and for finding a way to win,” Clark said. “I thought our kids played really well. We did exactly what we wanted to do. I just have to find a way to make it simpler to get the ball in the net. We have to do some work on that and figure out how to score easier. If we do that, then that game’s not even close. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way for us. We played as good as we have played all year.”