Aldine Eisenhower took advantage of its chances and topped Conroe 2-0 in the Region II-6A bi-district round of the postseason Friday night at Moorhead Stadium.
The Eagles (12-6-3), the third seed out of District 14-6A, were nearly doubled up in shot attempts but were able to put away goals at key points to extinguish Conroe’s momentum and end the Tigers’ season.
“They just had a chip on their shoulder,” Eagles coach Daniel Bui said. “Everyone counted us out, we started a little slow and we gave them a challenge — a challenge to be great and do the right things the right way.”
Eisenhower advances to the area round, where it will take on the winner of the bi-district contest between District 16-6A champion Langham Creek and Tomball Memorial, the fourth seed out of 15-6A.
Conroe (12-4-4) finished second in District 13-6A and got back to the postseason for the first time since the program’s 2018 regional final run. The Tigers missed the postseason in 2019 and the 2020 season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Conroe has a rich tradition of deep playoff runs,” coach Michael Pistor said. “Unfortunately, those two years we were a little down, but this group of seniors put us back on track. We established the tone and they set the bar high for next year’s seniors to come out and do even better. I’m so glad I got to work with them.”
The Tigers had the edge in possession and chances for most of the night but ran into a stingy Eisenhower defense.
“Really proud of the way our guys played,” Pistor said. “We’ll go back and look at the film, but I think it will show that we created a lot more opportunities, we just weren’t able to put one away. Eisenhower’s defense scrambled and put it together. They made the stops they needed to make time and time again.”
Conroe had the edge in possession and chances early, too, but it was Eisenhower that found the scoreboard first.
In the 14th minute, Melvin Jaramillo gained possession in the middle third and dribbled his way up the right sideline, earning a corner for the Eagles. Nahun Berrios sent the corner in and Jaramillo finished at the left post on the far side with a header.
Conroe’s Maximilian Vega had a shot on goal on Conroe’s next offensive push up the field, but the low kick was stopped.
Most of the Tigers’ quality chances in the first 40 minutes came from Dayton Hyde’s throw ins deep in the offensive third, which were played like corners. The best scoring opportunity came in the 21st minute. The throw found a Conroe head and the chance was stopped at the goal line by Eisenhower defenseman Hector Zavala.
Both sides had their chances in the remainder of the back-and-forth half, but neither found the net and the Eagles led 1-0 at the break.
“The halftime message was play like there’s no tomorrow, because there’s no tomorrow,” Pistor said. “We have a great group of seniors and a fantastic group of kids that have worked hard the last four years. We weren’t quite ready for tonight to be the last night. I sure am glad I got to work with that fantastic group of young men with bright futures.”
Conroe had the majority of chances in the second half, but it was again Eisenhower that finished.
In the 55th minute, after a solid five minutes of the Tigers’ tilting the field in their favor, the Eagles struck on the counterattack to double their lead. A contested ball was sent through by Joseph Figueroa and finished with ease by Kevin Rodriguez.
Hyde’s throw ins were a constant source of offense in the remainder of the half for Conroe, along with set pieces and corners, but no play was able to crack the code of the Eisenhower defense and keeper Omar Herrera.
In the 61st minute, Kevin Mejia nearly connected on a set piece from 40 yards away but Herrera punched it over the net. Two minutes later, a long throw was deflected on goal by Alexsis Lopez and stopped. A Mejia volley missed on the short side following another throw in the 66th minute.
Altogether, Conroe had six corner kicks — five in the second half — and more than 10 throws deep in the offensive third.
“Our goalkeeper has been solid all year and we just had to make a quick adjustment to get our strikers down and our tall guys down just to get those headers out,” Bui said. “We just treated it like a corner, how we’ve always been doing it. (Hyde) is a special player.”
Conroe unofficially had a 23-12 edge in shots and a 13-8 advantage in shots in goal. The opportunities piled up in the final 20 minutes, but none got by the Eagles.
“I tell them all year long that sports is a metaphor for life,” Pistor said. “The way they never gave up, I think if they take anything away from their time with Conroe soccer, it’s that they should always push harder, work hard and never give up.”