By BRAD KEITH
ALVARADO (January 13, 2015) — Stephenville scored twice in the final 90 seconds to beat Alvarado 3-1 in the Yellow Jackets’ regular-season opener at Charles Head Stadium Tuesday night.
Aaron Veloz took an assist from Aaron Burrows and punched the game winner past the Alvarado keeper and into the net with 1:22 remaining, and even after a clock-keeping error appeared to give the host Indians new life, Veloz was there to make sure the added time benefited Stephenville instead.
The clock did not stop following Veloz’ goal, which came at the end of a barrage of Stephenville pressure. When the clock struck zero, officials asked for 35 seconds to be added, drawing cheers from the Alvarado side and questions from Stephenville third-year head coach Joe Carter.
It didn’t matter.
As Alvarado tried to set up for one final attack, Veloz slid to the turf and swept the ball down the field. Gallego sprinted past everyone with an empty net ahead – Alvarado had pulled its keeper in lieu of an extra attacker – and bounced a shot into the net with two seconds left.
It was the second goal for Gallego, who got the scoring started in the 48th minute – with 32:54 left in the second half – after a scoreless opening stanza. He punched in a header after the ball was first headed to him off a corner kick.
Stephenville was on the attack in the 70th minute but misplayed the ball and turned it over, allowing the Indians to get loose on a breakaway and squeak their only goal of the night past winning keeper Noble Alexander to even count at 1-1.
Alexander was solid otherwise with two saves in the opening half while blocking away or covering everything else that came near the net.
Before the game, Carter admitted he didn’t know what to expect.
“We’re so young,” he said, after losing a strong senior class that led Stephenville to its second ever sectional title in 2014. “I’m still learning what we’ve got.”
Carter said he thought defense would be his team’s biggest strength. Veloz and Gallego then proved the Jackets can be offensive, too.
“I’m not worried about scores right now,” said Carter, whose club will be in the Knights of Columbus Challenge of Champions presented by Southwest Dairy Farmers Friday and Saturday at Stephenville Soccer Complex. “We just want to get better every day and be in good position when the playoffs start.”
Being in a four-team district, the Jackets are guaranteed a playoff spot. This is the first season the UIL has had three divisions of soccer, allowing Stephenville to compete in a true Class 4A as opposed to facing 5A schools.
“We only have to win six games,” said a laughing Carter, noting that’s how many playoff wins it would take to capture a state title.
Thanks to the 1-0 start, his team must now win at least seven.