It's a good year to be at Hurst Junior High. The school took home top honors in the Black and Blue Food drive last fall, and they are now looking to lock up a sure title in Liga HEB. Hurst City and Raiders United have dominated the competition on the field so far, winning every match by multiple goals and rarely conceding more than once a week. There's a good chance they meet in the Champions Cup. But it won't be smooth sailing for long. It's almost Rivalry Week in Liga HEB.

The annual schedule allows each school to play itself once, in the middle of the season. Last year, Rivalry Week helped to decide which of two strong Central sides would play for the Champions Cup. This year, Stallions FC and Atlético will look to lock up their school's respective bids. But it will be the Hurst matchup that proves most meaningful, as one or both of the undefeated sides will drop points.

A win for either would make them the undeniable favorite to lock up the top seed. A tie, however, leaves the door wide open. Should Spartans and Real Euless continue to stumble, their counterparts would gain ground on a Hurst side that splits points. In fact, Stallions would find themselves only a point away from their first championship berth. With four games left, they would be in control of their own destiny. But that's the future.

For now, Hurst is King.

Hurst City Dismantle Real Euless After Promising Start

Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones

Every week, the Committee of One makes the same observation: Real Euless is better than their scoreline. For the first twenty minutes of this match, the team at the bottom of the table looked to be vying for an upset, or at least their first point of the season. City had the edge in possession and technical skill, but there's plenty of fight in Real Euless. They pressured well up top, and even threatened a few breakaways early.

Things unraveled for Real after a miscue in the midfield. Their center mid attempted to turn the ball away from his man and into the attack, but lost possession to a strong tackle. City wasted no time, sliding the ball forward and centering it up for their oncoming striker. The shot, which came from the top of the 18-yard box, dipped just under the outstretched arms of the Euless ‘keeper. A nasty spin saw to it that the ball squirted away and into the net at the far post. The game turned almost immediately after that.

Hurst City chipped away at a stunned Euless defense, notching two more goals in the half and then doubling their lead after the break. Real isn't necessarily a bad defensive team; just a team that lacks confidence and tactical mastery. It's too easy to break them down and slip the ball behind their back line, and the man between the pipes can only do so much when faced with breakaway after breakaway. They lose their edge once they fall behind.

Stallions FC Back On Track After Strong Second Half

Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones

This one looked to be a classic at halftime. Stallions jumped ahead early, but gave up an equalizer when their defenders failed to clear a long ball that fell over the top. Disoriented by the lob, the center backs and fullbacks all descended on the ball only to watch it bounce passed them. Left unmarked, Central's leading scorer was happy to punch a volley past a goalie who didn't see much action for the rest of the game.

The match turned in the second half, with a speedy and potent Stallions attack finding space on the right flank. The Horsemen have some talent on the right wing, and a steady rotation of players found their way through the Central defense as the game wore on. They nabbed the lead again after a magnificent effort from their right forward, who weaved through the defense and snuck a ball into the far post before Atlético could close in on him.

What had been an even game until that point then began to turn. The course of play went from fluid to firmly in front of the Central goal. Suddenly buckling under the pressure, Atlético relied too heavily on individual skill to make up the ground they had lost. The midfield and forwards stopped communicating, and the result was a series of desperate long passes that couldn't keep pace with the suddenly revitalized Euless attack.

Raiders United Continue Dominant Streak

Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones

Raiders United led 3 – nil at the half, but you wouldn't have known it from the way Coach Girau addressed his team during the break. Team play is a staple of Hurst Soccer, and the maestro felt that his players were becoming complacent with their recent success. If they intend to run the table, Raiders will need to get back to playing the beautiful game instead of just the functional one.

Function was all the side needed last Wednesday, though, as Spartans FC continued to struggle. The boys in blue have plenty of skill, but no where to apply it. Raider's usual high press overwhelmed the Central defense, who struggled to communicate or pass effectively. In fact, most of the goals in this one came from poor clearances or missed positioning. There were too many Hurst players unmarked when the ball caromed off of posts, players, or the man minding the net. One tally even found it's way from the corner, off the head of a defender, and then through the ‘keeper's fingers.

The match went off the rails early for Spartans, and it was easy to see why. Even when the defense got hold of the ball, they turned to find Raiders well spaced and well placed to defend. There weren't a lot of options for Central to move the ball away from the defensive third of the field, and the game became a battle of attrition. It's tough to win those battles when they're fought in your penalty area.

Raiders United are all smiles as they shake hands after another lopsided victory. They face undefeated Hurst City next week. (Photo by Steven A Jones, 6 Stones)

Uniforms and equipment for Liga HEB are furnished by sponsorships from Ideal Impact Inc, Elite Fitness HQ, BB&T, The Soccer Corner, 89.7 Way FM, and Parra Car Care. For more on the league, drop by the Schedule & Standings page or check out the weekly Power Rankings published on the news hub.

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