GEORGETOWN--Flower Mound’s dynamic duo of senior Riley Baker and junior Sydney Becerra has been one of the best 1-2 scoring punches in the state this season.
On Friday, they showed it on the biggest of stages.
That pair hooked up twice in the second half, highlighted by Baker’s game-winner with 14:32 left as the Jaguars went on to a 2-1 victory over Austin Vandergrift to win the Class 6A state championship at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.
This is the second state championship for Flower Mound, earning a trophy to go alongside the 2016 team, and they finish with a 24-1-2 record.
The Jaguars had rolled through the last three rounds of the playoffs, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 12-0.
But the Vipers made it clear from the start they were no pushover.
Vandergrift spent a large portion of the early stages on the attack, and nearly took the lead, as Grace Borer rang a shot off the crossbar and Cameron Patton nearly put the rebound back, and a short time later, Kaya Pehrson got loose for a 20-yarder that went just high.
But Flower Mound began to settle down about the midway point of the first half and possession swung in their favor.
Though they did not score, they held the advantage in shots and corner kicks and set the tone for what was to follow.
“I thought we were too spread out, especially in the middle of the field, so the whole thing was to stay a little more compact and stop giving them so much time to do whatever they wanted with the ball,” Flower Mound head coach Misail Tsapos said. “Once we came back and figured out our assignments, we were able to defend the ball much better.”
Despite now going into a slight head wind, the Jaguars remained in control coming out of the break and had several near misses before finally breaking through when a long pass came to Berrera, who headed it past the defense to where Baker caught up with it and tapped a 12-yard shot over the keeper’s head to take a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute.
Though the Vandergrift offense had been dormant for several minutes, it woke up in a hurry facing a deficit, with a couple of good chances that went just wide and then converting when Lily Spencer blasted a 18-yard left-footer into the top right corner of the net to tie it at 1-1 with 23:21 left.
Flower Mound was unphased and quickly reestablished control. It again turned to a familiar combination, with Becerra sliding a pass through the defense to Baker, who knocked the 16-yarder past the keeper for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“They get along off the field so that relates to the way they are on the field,” Tsapos said. “But those two kids are exceptional. They read off each other, they feed off each other. Sydney had the assist and Riley had the winning goal and that has happened for us all year.”
The first half was relatively even, with Vandergrift actually having a slight edge in possession early on, but the Flower Mound defensive line that includes Madison Schott, Hallie Augustyn, Emma Whiteley and Hannah Augustyn was up to the challenge.
The Jaguars have had one of the most difficult roads of any team in the state, so they weren’t going to be bothered by a slow start. They turned things around by the 20-minute mark, and later in the night, were crowned champions.
“I thought we had the chance to have something special,” Tsapos said. “I’m not going to say I thought we would win a state title, but I thought we were contenders. We went through eight matches in 10 days because of the weather , but I tell you what, we have the best training staff in the world and they put those kids back together, got them going again and they did what they were able to do.”