Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Second-half breakthrough sends Coppell boys to state final for first time since 2006
GEORGETOWN — Whether the wind was in its face or at its back, Coppell dictated play in Friday’s Class 5A semifinal at Birkelbach Field. But in soccer, control of the ball doesn’t mean control of the game.
And so it was with great relief that Coppell’s players and fans watched senior midfielder Mitchell Parnell slide a shot into the lower left corner of the goal midway through the second half. The icebreaker took some of the pressure off Coppell, which beat Humble Kingwood, 2-0, to return to the 5A title game for the first time since 2006.
“You can dominate possession all you want, but if you don’t score a goal, it doesn’t matter,” Coppell coach Chad Rakestraw said. “A lot of times that’s how soccer goes.”
Things went well from the start for Coppell (22-2), which will play for the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday against Brownsville Hanna, which beat Alief Elsik, 1-0. Playing with the wind at its back in the first half, Coppell dominated possession and set up numerous times in the attacking third of the field.
Playing into the wind in the second half didn’t change things much. Coppell still controlled the action, and in the 55th minute, it took its first edge on the scoreboard. Senior midfielder Drake Lovelady passed from the left side of the goal to Parnell on the right, and he tucked the ball just inside the far post.
“We knew that this team came in with three [penalty-kick] shootout wins,” Parnell said. “We didn’t want to let that happen. We got two solid goals to make sure it didn’t happen.”
The second goal came after Kingwood (23-2-4) got two back-to-back chances late in the match. With nine minutes left, a long free kick was punched over the goal by Coppell keeper Dante DiCiolli. On the ensuing corner kick, the ball was knocked out 25 yards in front of the goal to Kingwood’s Yash Mistry, who headed it to Connor Hartung in front of the goal. Hartung’s header was saved by DiCiolli.
Kingwood got more aggressive in the final minutes, but Coppell ended the drama on a nice give-and-go by senior forward Jarett Weaver and junior defender Neal Tatum. Weaver passed to Tatum on the left side of the goal, Tatum sent it right back, and Weaver scored easily from about 15 yards in front of the net.
Coppell could then start thinking about Saturday, when the Cowboys’ depth could give them an edge as they try to win their second state crown. Coppell, making its sixth state appearance, won the title in 2004 and was state runner-up in 2006.
“One more game to go,” Rakestraw said. “The players have done an incredible job to give themselves this opportunity.”
His message to them for Saturday:
“Let’s go finish it off.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon