PENNINGTON FIELD — It was cold and grey and overcast, but the stars shone brightly, regardless. When Liga HEB's finest gathered in the frigid mist on Wednesday night, no one knew what to expect. Some students discovered that friends from other schools had been assigned to their team only minutes before kickoff. One Euless student went out of his way to high-five a friend from Hurst, celebrating their placement on HEB Green. The dispersion draft worked.
But even as students celebrated their new friends, an eerie calm settled on the pitch. What looked to be an offensive showdown suddenly looked like a defensive affair. The temperature plummeted just before kickoff. Students huddled together to fight off the cold. Some stuffed their hands into their shorts in a desperate attempt to stay warm.
But once the whistle blew, Pennington Field was red-hot.
HEB White logged the first shot of the match within minutes, but Central Junior High's newest goaltender was equal to the task. He parried the first shot and made a spectacular kick-save to keep White off the scoreboard. HEB Green struggled to find consistent offense on the counter, bombarding the White goal from long range and even rattling the woodwork in the first five minutes but wasting their first few possessions.
Bedford United coach Peter Sebastian had the White squad playing a more disciplined style than their opponents, controlling the match with a fast-moving short game. While they dominated in possession, their attack seemed to fizzle in the final third. But when their chances came, they made the most of them. In fact, it was HEB White that found the net first; their midfield moving the ball down the left wing and finishing low at the near post.
For a few minutes, it looked like the opening goal would be the decisive one. White started to push more confidently, nearly doubling their lead with a through-ball from the right wing that should have set their striker loose on the goal. But a Green center-back intervened at the last moment, poking the ball away to stunt the attack. White settled in to play a cautious, low-scoring match and put the game away with one more goal on the counter. Green would have none of it.
Suddenly behind, the boys in Green doubled their efforts and finally broke through with a low finish of their own, also at the near post on the lefthand side.
Back and Forth
With the match leveled, things started to open up. White pushed down the left wing once again, their winger settling a long ball and taking a tidy touch around his man before punching a chest-high ball through to the left forward. With another crafty touch, the target man pushed the ball along to the top of the box. There, White's right forward narrowly beat Green's goalkeeper in a foot race, once again slipping his shot into the net on the ground just before the half.
Not to be outshined, Green's right forward leveled the match again after the whistle, firing a rocket into the top shelf from the edge of the area. The game opened wide from there, with White controlling the field through their spacing. They tallied again when a deflected shot landed between two attacking players and an open net. Green pressed hard on the counterattack, led by an MVP candidate from Raiders United. He skirted another MVP-caliber player from Bedford at the midfiled line, then played a pass behind the White defense.
Green's striker ran onto the ball and was brought down in the box. The ensuing penalty leveled the match again, this time at three. They never looked back.
The Home Stretch Is Green
Their game plan exhausted, White became increasingly reliant on their central midfield. But the Green defense had already solved that problem and started pressing to keep the ball away from the center of the pitch. Suddenly free to dominate on the wings, Green unleashed their secret weapon: a seventh-grader from Bedford Junior High.
The surprising rookie netted a brace to put the game away, slotting a deflected ball between two defenders at the near post to give Green their first lead about halfway through the second frame. He scored again moments later, rising above the defense to head home a gorgeous cross that would prove to be the last true scoring opportunity in the match.
With the clock ticking and the cold wind picking up, White found themselves too flat-footed to mount a comeback. They managed to push forward a few more times, but never got a good chance to break through a suddenly vice-like Green defense. The final whistle came without incident, and both teams met to shake hands at the center of the pitch.