OVER TOO EARLY

Kilgore High School's Jovany Gonzalez (left) fights for the ball against a Midlothian Heritage player during last weekend's UIL Region II final. Kilgore led 2-0 for much of the game, but Heritage scored three goals in nine minutes, after a 2 1/2-hour lightning delay, to win, 3-2. 

After what seemed to be an endless series of lightning delays, Kilgore led Midlothian Hertiage 2-0 with about 18 minutes left to play in the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A Region II championship – 18 minutes and 34 seconds from a fourth trip to the state tournament since 2011.

But 18 mostly agonizing minutes later, shockingly – in a bad way – it was over.

Heritage, which played Kilgore tough but had been less than impressive in the first half, suddenly had life, and put Kilgore on its heels. The Jaguars scored three goals in nine minutes, and Kilgore was unable to tie it, falling 3-2 at Tyler's Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Hertiage will  Region II at the UIL state tournament Wednesday, the first state tournament since 2014 that won’t have at least one of the two Kilgore High soccer programs playing in it.

Unfortunately for KHS and its fans, the Bulldogs’ season is over. Kilgore finishes with a 24-4-2 record.

It certainly didn’t look like it would end that way for the first 62 minutes of the contest.

Similar to Friday’s regional quarterfinal win over Dallas Hillcrest, the first half boasted strong defense, and then at last, with 2:35 left until the break, Raul Cedillo shattered the scoreless tie with a short kick for a score off an assist from Wanya McIntyre.

That’s how the first half ended, and then Kilgore doubled its lead with a goal by McIntyre himself with 26:18 left in the game.

Storms blitzed East Texas, including a possible tornado near Alto, for much of the day Saturday, and forced the game into a delay with lightning chasing the teams off the field for what would be a little more than 2 ½-hour delay.

Not quite two minutes after play resumed, the Jags’ Zach Schmidt found Garrett Garvin in a crowd, but Garvin managed to head it in to half Kilgore’s lead to 2-1 at 16:47.

About five minutes and change later, Matthew Stanton scored again for Heritage on a free kick after a ricochet off the crossbar, and in. Heritage had tied things up at 2-all with 11:05 left to play

Schmidt scored what would shockingly be the final score of the game, the tie-breaking goal on another free kick with 9:29 left to play. Kilgore had its chances but failed to score, and Heritage had sealed its first-ever trip to the state tournament.

Still, Kilgore’s soccer programs have been among the best not just in East Texas, but in the state, for eight years. The Bulldogs have made three state tournaments since 2011, having played for the title that season and breaking through to win it in 2016.

Also making 2016 special was that both Kilgore teams – boys and girls – made the state tourney that season. Then, although the boys were upended last year, the girls made it through, falling to Jasper in the state tourney’s semifinals.

With a Bulldogs’ roster that includes just six seniors, there’s no reason to believe that the run is over. Kilgore’s boys seniors this season are Daniel Sifford, Brandyn Hinojos, Cedillo, Elivan Torres, Erik Gonzalez and Maicol Pena.

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