The Apalachee High School boys’ soccer team engaged in a defensive struggle in its season opener with visiting Jackson County on Friday, Feb. 7, at R. Harold Harrison Stadium, but held on for a 1-0 victory.

The two teams battled for 54 scoreless minutes before Estib Galindo was able to put the lone goal on the board for AHS and for the contest.

“If we had taken care of our business earlier in the match, then it wouldn’t have come down to the final minutes where Jackson County almost tied the score,” said Wildcat coach Chad Hooper. “Against good teams, you have to take advantage of your opportunities or it will cost you.”

The Wildcats and Panthers were scoreless at halftime and continued their defensive struggle into the second 40 minutes. Apalachee’s Ronal Galindo and Jackson County’s Parker Garrison both played well in goal for their respective teams, turning back various scoring attempts by the opposing team.

AHS had two scoring opportunities in the match’s first 15 minutes but were unable to cash in. Steven Flores raced down the field with just more than two minutes left in the first half but was unable to convert.

Ronal Galindo, meanwhile, had a strong first half in goal for the Wildcats including a strong defensive play with seven minutes left.

Jackson County, which had dismantled Banks County High School 10-0 in its previous contest, was held more in check on Feb. 7. The Panthers’ best scoring opportunity of the first half came with 3:50 remaining but that attempt sailed over the net.

“Jackson County has a strong team,” Hooper said. “They are going to be tough this season.”

The Panthers had an opportunity to tie the match with 3:14 left after Apalachee’s Justin Tejada received a red card. Jackson County also made a last-minute attempt to even the score but could not cash in.

Hooper’s team has seven seniors for the 2020 season, including Ronal Galindo, Nestor Perla, Tejada, Jorge Bazan, Arturo Juarez and Joseph Cervantes. Hooper also has a large group of juniors, including Estib Galindo, Emerson Rivas, Rodrigo Mazariego, Victor Vaca, Scott Centellas, Eddy Diosdado and Martin Gonzalez.

Despite the large number of upperclassmen, the coach said his team is still working on becoming a complete team.

“We are still trying to find all the pieces of the puzzle,” Hooper said.

The Feb. 5 match location was moved to AHS and its field turf surface after heavy rains left the Jackson County field unplayable.

The Wildcats had previously tied Chestatee 2-2 in a preseason scrimmage and were scheduled to visit Denmark on Tuesday, Feb. 11. AHS will host Rockdale County on Friday, Sept. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

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