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Wisdom doesn’t even have its own soccer field.
The Generals practice on an open patch of grass at a nearby park, with, as coach Fidel Andrade put it, “dog poop and ant hills.”
But all these boys really need is a ball – and a whole lot of heart.
Huntsville struck first in the second half, but the Generals responded with two clutch goals, including a header off a throw-in with 7 minutes remaining, sending them to a 2-1 win Saturday at Turner Stadium.
“When you have a great group of guys and you build a program to make something great happen like this, it’s a lot of joy, and not for us but our community and our kids, with the things we go through,” Andrade said.
“It’s not easy.”
Now the Region III-5A champs are heading to state for the second time in five years.
They were the first Houston ISD boys team to make the state tourney in 2014, when they fell in the semifinals.
This time, they want to push the bar higher.
“We feel a lot better,” Andrade said. “Four years ago, we had a lot of injuries, so when we went to state, we were a little broken down. We had injuries, we had red cards. But this time we have a complete team.”
The Hornets (14-9-4) showed patience on their first goal, working the ball inside in traffic, then finishing behind a well-placed shot by senior Alex Avelar for a 1-0 advantage in the 53rd minute.
But the Generals didn’t panic.
“I didn’t worry about it,” Andrade said.
“I trust them a lot, and when I screamed at them, I didn’t scream at them to pump them up or anything, I screamed at them to tell them, ‘Hey look, if you play your game, you’re still going to win it.'”
He was correct.
Senior Eduardo Salgado supplied the equalizer 10 minutes later off a rebound.
Then he was credited with the long-range, game-winning header after a Wisdom throw-in into a crowded pack.
Salgado scored all four of the Generals’ goals in the regional tourney.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we figured that if other teams put this pressure on us, we can put it back on them, so the biggest thing for us was to be able to put some pressure on them,” Andrade said.
Huntsville’s Antonio Flores picked up his second yellow card a minute later, leaving the Hornets a man down for the final six minutes, and Wisdom turned them away to return to the big stage.
“We have a little more confidence now,” Andrade said.
“It feels a little bit more real this time. Before, it was more like we were just living the experience.
“Now it’s more about us going there, knowing what we can do.”
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.