Panthers overcome early deficit to advance to championship game

The boys soccer team defeated Pharr Valley View, 5-4, in the state semifinals.

Gage+Guerra+celebrates+with+Jace+Banning%2C+Walter+Rodee+and+Nathan+Jimerson+after+scoring+a+goal+to+tie+the+game+at+3+with+less+than+3+minutes+to+play+in+the+first+half.+Guerra+scored+all+three+of+the+team%27s+first+half+goals.

Katie Gerbasich

Gage Guerra celebrates with Jace Banning, Walter Rodee and Nathan Jimerson after scoring a goal to tie the game at 3 with less than 3 minutes to play in the first half. Guerra scored all three of the team’s first half goals.

Kathleen Ortiz, Editor-in-Chief

Blood trickled down senior Gage Guerra’s face early in the state boys soccer semifinal. The senior forward was not fazed. 

Guerra didn’t even look toward the trainers until Pharr Valley View players notified the referee that someone was bleeding, forcing him to leave the field temporarily.

Senior Gage Guerra plays the ball up the field after getting a bloody nose early in the state semifinal game against Pharr Valley View. (Kathleen Ortiz)

An early 3-1 deficit didn’t stop him either. Guerra sternly yelled across the field reminding teammates they could play better.

That’s exactly what they did for a 5-4 victory to reach the 5A state final.

 After they fell behind 3-1, Guerra told his teammates they needed to play quicker and match Valley View’s intensity if they wanted to win.

“There was plenty of time left to get the job done, and I made sure they knew that,” said Guerra, who scored three goals in the first half. “We couldn’t afford to put our heads down. We had to keep playing our game and push through.”

Guerra’s three goals in the first half helped the Panthers mount their comeback. Jesus Cervantes took care of the rest with two goals in the second half, putting the Panthers in their first state final since 2010.

“When Gage scored those three goals to tie it up that’s when we knew we had a chance to come back,” Cervantes said. “And we did.”

With the score tied at 3 at halftime, coach Ryan Searle told the Panthers they knew they could beat Valley View. He sent an overall message that the boys needed to compete.

At (halftime) we knew when we came out we were not losing this game no matter what the score was, no matter what happened.”

— Brandon Rogers, senior

“At that point we knew when we came out we were not losing this game no matter what the score was, no matter what happened,” senior captain Brandon Rogers said.

That’s exactly what they did. They never trailed in the second half. The Panthers, who snapped Valley View’s 19-game win streak, will play Wakeland (23-1-1) in the state championship game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Birkelbach Stadium in Georgetown.

They want to finish what they started last year when they were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state before the season was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the win, Searle pointed to each of the 2020 graduates he saw in the crowd, making it clear they’re a part of this too. 

“It feels good to represent all the boys that have gone through the program before us,” Cervantes said. “It’s good to go to the state final for them. They never had a chance to even go to the playoffs last year.”