Liga HEB is back! Seven teams return to the field this year, with Euless Junior High set to defend their title. Offseason moves and UIL rules make rosters tough to predict, so there's no telling which teams will be contenders in Week One. But so far, the defending champions are undefeated and the traditional powerhouses are coming back online.
At the end of the day, though, the matches are just the beginning. The truly important thing is the camaraderie we saw after the whistle, as more than a hundred teenage boys gathered around a worn out grill to share a meal. At that point, team colors don't matter.
We are one league. One family. Champions begin here.
Raiders United Dismantle Atlético Central 5-0
Last year's woes continue for the boys in blue, who seem apprehensive at best and lost on the pitch at worst. As is usually the case at Central, there's no shortage of talent on the roster. They just need to develop and gel as a club. On the other side of the ball, however, Raiders look to back in full force. The disparity between them was evident from the first kick.
Early in the match, with the scoreboard still blank, Atlético mishandled a goal kick at the edge of the box. Raiders punished them immediately, snatching the loose ball and making a neat cut to the inside before dropping a chip shot over the Central keeper and into the middle of the netting.
To their credit, Atlético hung tight for most of the first half, battling for the ball but failing to generate productive offense. They trailed by two at the break, but Raiders came out with a vengeance in the second half. Possibly in part because the sun was setting behind them instead of into their eyes, Hurst found the net three more times in the final period before parking the bus and settling in to take all three points.
Spartans Look Resurgent in 7-1 Drubbing of Hurst City
It's been a while since Central had a legitimate title contender, but Spartans looked the part in their 2019 debut. They've found a proven scorer to lead their offense, and they're working out a team style that allows them to move the ball more effectively than they have in years passed.
In their first ten minutes, the men in silver found the net thrice — a hat trick for their new Striker — including a nicely threaded through ball that was neatly finished in the bottom corner. He tallied another before the half, and Spartans looked set to cruise to an easy victory. For the first time in years, fans were cheering and honking their horns as the team ran up the score.
Central opted to rest some of their key players late in the match, and Hurst City settled down long enough to steal a late goal and ruin the blank sheet, but it was an overall miserable showing for last year's runners-up. It's looking like the traditional roster turnover in the league is going to hit City hard in 2019.
Stallions FC Steal a 1-0 Result from Upstart Bedford United
In a surprise marquee matchup between two squads that struggled in 2018, Broncoes United looked to be far and away the better team. They dominated possession for most of the first half and smothered Euless to the point that Stallions didn't record a shot on goal until after the break.
If Bedford had confidence problems after a difficult first year, they didn't show it here. They've put together a fairly dominant front four who are equally capable of dribbling around defenders and slotting passes through them. There's an MVP candidate pulling the strings for the hoops this year, but they can't seem to find the final touch that would have put this match away; leaving some of their best chances right at the Euless keeper's feet.
After a stagnant first half, however, Stallions flipped the switch. Possession began to level out, and the men in black found their usual route downfield by playing outside-in, exploiting space on the wings to wriggle free and play dangerous balls into the box. Eventually, a long pass found their winger with just enough space to cut back and loft a ball to an open teammate inside the box, and Stallions slotted the game-winner home.