ALLEN — The Plano East boys soccer team battled more than just Sachse on Thursday afternoon during its first game at the Allen Eagle Showcase.
Heavy winds took their toll on both sides, with the Panthers and Mustangs fittingly playing to a scoreless draw through 80 minutes at Lowery Stadium. The decision doubled as East’s second tie in four matches as part of a 2-0-2 start.
East didn’t lack for chances over the final 20 minutes of play, taking up residence on Sachse’s half of the pitch and generating a wealth of shot attempts. With the wind at their backs, the Panthers had some strikes sail long while others were picked off by a slew of acrobatic saves in net by the Mustangs’ rangy goalkeeper.
“The wind really did a number on us today, but their goalkeeper played lights out,” said Rick Woodard, East head coach. “I can’t wait to go back and look at some of the saves on video. He was amazing — any other keeper and some of those go in, but he played really well.”
Despite failing to convert on Thursday, the Panthers’ aggression on offense has been a trend early into this season. East entered the week looking to build off a 2-0-1 run at a tournament held at Sachse Jan. 7-9 where the team scored nine goals in three matches. Following a 1-1 draw against North Garland, East responded with wins of 4-0 over Denison and 4-1 over West Mesquite.
“Against Denison, we were just on our game,” Woodard said. “Then, it was 0-0 at the half against West Mesquite and we ended up getting four in the second half because we fixed some things up top. That helped create some shots that we were able to put on frame.”
Walters Che and Carson Daily fueled the second-half rally with two goals apiece, while Ben Woodard and Daniel Malczewski chipped in assists. Che was last season’s newcomer of the year in 9-6A after posting a team-high eight goals on the year. The forward is on pace to exceed that clip with four goals scored in just the Panthers’ two matches against Denison and West Mesquite.
Che has had help elsewhere with Daily and Greyson Pinto among the Panthers who have found the back of the net early on.
“It’s been a bunch of different people, which is good because they’re not able to then single out just one person,” Woodard said.
Woodard added that this year’s team sports a positional versatility that could come in handy during district play as teams brace for the possibility of playing shorthanded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panthers are tuning up for another challenging district run as they realign to 6-6A with Lewisville ISD and Coppell — led by a nationally acclaimed Marcus side.
“Our expectations are high, but in this district and with COVID, it’s going to be about who can stay the healthiest and who can keep their grades,” Woodard said. “The good thing with this group is I have a bunch of players I can mix and match at different positions.”
The Panthers rounded out their stay in Allen with matches against North Mesquite and The Colony (results not available as of press time) and return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday from Tom Kimbrough Stadium against Richardson. That match will be the final tune-up before East begins district play Jan. 26 against Hebron.