Both the McKinney North and Frisco Heritage boys’ soccer teams laid everything on the line in an entertaining bi-district playoff match that had everything from highly skilled goals to sheer craziness.
When the final horn sounded, it was Heritage who came out on top, 3-2, over North, thanks to scoring the first three goals of the match in the opening 60 minutes of the game. After watching his squad barely hold off a very furious late North rally, Heritage head coach Adrian Puente was very relived that his Coyotes, who didn’t make the playoffs last season, will have the opportunity to play in the area round of the postseason.
“We knew we were playing a good team in McKinney North but playing in a tough district like District 9-5A prepared us for big stages like this and it showed tonight,” Puente said. “After the game, we definitely talked about the last few minutes of the game because I felt we got complacent being up 3-0, but props to McKinney for laying it on the line as well and never giving up. It was a lot closer than it needed to be, but I’m very proud of my guys for persevering.”
After taking a 1-0 into halftime thanks to a beautifully struck ball by senior Derek Norsworthy, Heritage senior Coleman Hatfield would take things over at the beginning of the second half. Hatfield assisted on a goal by senior Seth Donelan in the 46th minute and then scored easily on a penalty kick in the 52nd minute to give the Coyotes a commanding 3-0 lead.
Hatfield’s burst was even more important when considering that Heritage was going against the wind.
“It was nice to come up big for my team because our team played well and we’re excited about advancing to the next round,” Hatfield said. “People see us as underdogs because of last season, even though we had a great season in district this season. We are here to prove ourselves and give it 110 percent while we win some games.”
While Heritage was dominating the terms of the game, North was struggling to get anything going offensively and didn’t record its first shot on goal until the 60th minute.
The Bulldogs finally put things together when senior Alex Medina, who came into the match as the only Bulldog with playoff experience, found the net off an assist from sophomore Hayes Malone. Medina’s goal in the 73rd minute was the momentum-changer North needed to turn things around.
Though disappointed in the final ending, Medina knows things are heading in the right direction for the North soccer program.
“We just kept fighting after being down in the game and that’s a testament to what coach (C.J.) Shelton and the coaches preach to us every day,” Medina said. “I wish that things turned out differently, but it is what it is, and I know the turnaround for this program will continue next season.”
North capitalized on having the wind by getting a big goal by freshman Cesar Flores in the 78th minute, which made things interesting heading into the final buzzer. With its first playoff run since 2016 officially over, North ends its season with an optimistic future and hopeful that playing in games like this will become the norm for the Bulldogs soccer program.
“We knew we were playing a tough opponent and it wasn’t good to give up goals on that set piece and that penalty kick, but I think it was more what coach Puente and his guys did than what we didn’t do, so props to them,” Shelton said. “Our guys have bought into our philosophy that it’s never over until it’s over and I’m so proud of how we fought all the way to the end and never gave up.
“This playoff loss doesn’t diminish what we did as team this year and I’m excited to work even harder over the offseason because I know these guys can go far in the playoff despite matching up with that tough Frisco district.”