Gallegos, Bacho and Querido of FAB 50 No. 20 Central Catholic (Texas) and Ortiz of FAB 50 No. 23 Sam Houston (Texas) took turns making goalkeepers look helpless, factoring in nine goals in Central Catholic’s 6-4 victory.
Central Catholic's win highlighted a highly entertaining opening round of the NTXES, a boys soccer event that was played in chilly conditions at high school co-hosts Marcus and Coppell. The most dramatic finish of the day came when FAB 50 No. 8 Cathedral (Calif.) edged FAB 50 No. 3 Grand Prairie (Texas) on Alex Lugo's bicycle kick with 14 seconds left in regulation. See the game-winner right here.
The first Thursday in January marks the start of the Texas UIL (mostly public schools) season. It also means Dallas-Fort Worth becomes the hub of high school soccer for three days with NTXES for boys and the National Elite Prep Showcase for girls, played mostly at Nolan Catholic and Southlake Carroll.
The top two flights of NTXES features eight teams ranked in the top 30 of the recent FAB 50, and Central Catholic and Sam Houston ended up being a clash of Top 25 teams in the opening round.
Querido struck first for Central Catholic (4-0), but Ortiz responded a minute later to even the score. Central Catholic surged ahead on a brilliant left-footed strike from Bacho, but again Ortiz answered quickly. Ortiz completed his first-half hat trick to give Sam Houston a 3-2 lead in its season opener, but the next four goals all came from Central Catholic -- Chris Rios-Cruza, assisted by Gallegos, then Daveen Mazaheri-Campos, followed by a Gallegos penalty kick. At that point, Central Catholic was in complete control, but Ortiz scored his fourth of the day to make the last 10 minutes interesting.
"I've been part of a lot of crazy games, but this one is on the short list (among the most crazy)," said Central Catholic coach Edward Cartee. "To be honest, we did a much better job containing [Ortiz] in the second half, but we were not able to step up and really manage him. … He was more than we could handle. But that said, [Sam Houston] couldn't handle our offense."
In addition to wins by Central Catholic and Cathedral, the other ranked teams playing against unranked opponents all won as well -- FAB 50 No. 1 Loyola (Calif.), No. 5 Marcus (Texas), No. 25 Coppell (Texas) and No. 29 St. Paul's (La.). Friday’s semifinals feature St. Paul's vs. Coppell and Cathedral vs. [San Antonio Lee tx-m] (Texas) in the Black Division, and Downey (Calif.) vs. Marcus and Central Catholic vs. Loyola in the Red Division. The division champions will be settled Saturday morning, then the two division champions square off Saturday evening in the final match of the three-day competition.
At NEPS, Elizabeth Ospeck scored both goals to lead FAB 50 No. 40 Carondelet (Calif.) to a 2-0 win over No. 18 Marcus (Texas) and Ashton Wright had two goals and one assist in FAB 50 No. 39 Grapevine's 4-3 win over No. 45 Bishop Lynch (Texas) in the day's two featured matches. FAB 50 No. 3 Southlake Carroll (Texas) defeated Boerne Champion (Texas) 5-0, No. 36 Byron Nelson (Texas) defeated Lake Travis (Texas) 4-0 and No. 46 Ursuline Academy (Texas) edged Santa Margarita (Calif.) 1-0.
F Jose Ortiz, Sam Houston (Texas), Jr.: An absolute sniper. He scored four goals in Sam Houston’s 6-4 setback. The junior is being courted by NCAA Division I and II programs, but also has a South American connection that could lead to a professional opportunity after high school.
M Angel Blanco, Central Catholic (Texas), Sr.: An outside back in club soccer, plays more in the midfield in high school. Strong with either foot and hit a quality, upper-90 shot from distance that gave Central Catholic a lead at the time. He won't post huge numbers, but does a lot of the work that isn't captured on a stat sheet. Still, he's had a goal or assist in all four of the team's wins to start the season.
F Jose Gallegos, Central Catholic (Texas), Jr.: Gallegos is much like Ortiz in the fact he enters his junior season already well known. Both players were part of TopDrawerSoccer all-region teams last year. Gallegos had a goal and one assist Thursday and was a threat to score every time he faced the goal. Also like Ortiz, Gallegos is being courted by NCAA Division I and II programs, and could even be a pro in the not-too-distant future.
F/M Tomas Pondeca, Marcus (Texas), Jr.: Pondeca had a breakout performance Thursday, scoring three goals in Marcus' 5-0 win. He uses his body well and was able to retain possession and remain on the attack even after taking on contact.
M Sebastian Blaas, Coppell (Texas), Jr.: Blass is another junior who's making heads turn to start the season. He scored twice in Coppell's 4-0 win on Thursday.
F Elizabeth Ospeck, Carondelet (Calif.), Jr.: The Notre Dame commit scored twice to lead Carondelet to a 2-0 win over Marcus in a clash of FAB 50-ranked teams. Ospeck has always performed well at this event.
M Ashton Wright, Grapevine (Texas), Sr.: Wright had a stellar 2018 showing and she appears to be even more impactful in 2019. She opened the season with a two-goal, one assist performance in Grapevine’s win over Bishop Lynch in a meeting of FAB 50-ranked teams.
F Jaida Thomas, Bishop Lynch (Texas), Jr.: Thomas, a West Virginia commit, has returned from ACL surgery and showed Thursday she might be the most dynamic player in the DFW this winter. She scored all three of Bishop Lynch’s goals in a 4-3 loss to FAB 50-ranked Grapevine.
Other Multi-Goal Scorers, Multi-Assist Performances:
Makayla Herrell, Coronado (Texas), Jr.
Olivia Zeldin, Steele Canyon (Calif.), Sr.
Olivia Bautista, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.), Sr..
Ava Crimmings, Byron Nelson (Texas), So.
Ashley Herndon, Steele Canyon (Calif.), Sr.
Kaylee Maddox, Coronado (Texas), Jr.
Karley Roberts, Antonian College Preparatory (Texas), Sr.
North Texas Elite Showcase
[San Antonio Lee tx-m] (Texas) 4, McKinney Boyd (Texas) 1. Goals: Jonathan Facio 3, Alberto Mendoza; MB -- Roberto Gonzalez.
National Elite Prep Showcase
FAB 50 No. 3 Southlake Carroll (Texas) 5, Boerne Champion (Texas) 0. Goals: SLC: Laney Kimble (Karina Owens), Taylor Tufts (Morgan Quillen), Madeline Bryant (Kendall Gilpin), Tufts (Sydney Nobles), Tufts.
FAB 50 No. 39 Grapevine (Texas) 4, FAB 50 No. 45 Bishop Lynch (Texas) 3. Goals: G -- Ashton Wright (Bri Eye), Eliza Haley (Nikki Romero), Christine McCullough (Wright), Wright (Kyleigh Rhodes); BL -- Jaida Thomas (Mallory Johnson), Thomas (Johnson), Thomas (Marianna Zevallos).
Steele Canyon (Calif.) 5, Fort Bend Clements (Texas) 1. Goals: SC -- Ava Gackowski (Angelina Espinal), Ashley Herndon (Trinity Edwards), Olivia Zeldin (Scarlett), Zeldin (Herndon), Samantha Scarlett (Herndon); FBC -- Yan Cheung.