GARLAND--North Mesquite is no stranger to close games this season, so it felt right at home in a scoreless tie going into the second half against Duncanville on Tuesday.
But the danger of a tight match is that a handful of plays can determine the outcome and that turned out to be the case, as the Panthers capitalized on a couple of key chances and it was enough to hold off the Stallions for a 2-1 victory in a Class 6A area round playoff game at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.
Duncanville improves to 23-1-2 and advances to the Region 2 quarterfinals to take on Rockwall-Heath, a 2-0 winner over Waxahachie, while North Mesquite finishes the season with a 12-4-10 record.
Both teams had portions of the game where they dictated the match, but it is sometimes a game of inches.
After a scoreless first half, the Panthers took the lead in the 47th minute when the Stallions were unable to clear a ball in the box and Arath Olivarez was right there on the door step to punch it in to take a 1-0 lead.
North Mesquite had a couple of chances to net the equalizer that were turned away and then caught a bad break when they were whistled for a foul in the penalty box.
Duncanville’s Alejandro Rojas cashed in on the penalty kick to push the lead to 2-0 with 18:23 left.
To the Stallions’ credit, they never stopped pressing, even subjecting themselves to counterattacks.
That paid off with less than two minutes left when a long free kick was sent into the box that appeared to be deflected in by Abdul Kanu to cut it to 2-1 with 1:58 left.
North Mesquite made things interesting by keeping possession near the Panther goal in the 90 seconds, but a packed-in defense was too much to navigate as Duncanville was able to clear the ball and preserve the win.
Though the Stallions had the first good scoring chance of the game, the Panthers had a solid stretch where they controlled play and had several opportunities, only to be turned away by North Mesquite keeper Lorenzo Dominguez, who made huge saves in both halves.
The Stallions’ best early chance came when Kanu’s header went just wide and they were able to maintain the edge in possession for the final 15 minutes of the first half.
That carried over into the second half, as Junior Garcia and Kanu each had chances, but the Panthers were able to strike for the first goal of the game and it would change the complexion from that point.