McALLEN — In one afternoon the La Feria Lions went from total bliss to total devastation as the team’s Cinderella season came to a shocking end at the hands of the Bandera Bulldogs 4-2 in penalty kicks on Friday afternoon at McAllen’s Veterans Memorial Stadium in a Region IV-4A semifinal.
The loss ended the Lions’ historic season that saw them defeat Zapata 3-1 in bi-district, Somerset 4-0 in the area round and Grulla 2-1 in the regional quarterfinals.
With the win, Bandera moves on to play Progreso at noon today in the regional final.
“I just told the team to go all the way and give 110 percent just like they always did,” said La Feria head coach Sergio Rodriguez. “In overtime we were attacking the most, but the ball just didn’t go in.”
Despite the defeat, it was La Feria that scored first. After the Bulldogs conceded a corner kick to the Lions with 19 minutes remaining in the first half, freshman Tony Torres put his team up 1-0.
It wasn’t until 25 minutes remaining in the contest that Bandera scored with the help of La Feria. After a Bulldog player was fouled inside the box, Bandera’s Abram Mata stepped up to the penalty spot and drilled it past La Feria’s goalkeeper to tie the game 1-1.
However, the Lions’ season could have been salvaged in the final 30 seconds of the game as Bandera’s net minder Aiden Keane came up with two point-blank saves to send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless 20 minutes of overtime, Torres scored the Lions’ first penalty attempt, but the team missed the next two consecutive attempts as they sailed over the net. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs converted on every opportunity.
The Lions have plenty to be optimistic about moving forward. For starters, of the 26 players on the roster only seven are seniors as the Lions are loaded with enough youth to fill two squads.
“It feels like I almost have two teams,” said Rodriguez after the game. “One (team) is leaving but we still have another and we’re still going to have a strong starting team next season.”