By DAVID CAMPBELL
Eagle Staff Writer
ROUND ROCK -- El Paso Del Valle couldn't solve Brenham junior goalkeeper Cameron Wren for what seemed like an eternity Saturday at Round Rock ISD Stadium.
But when junior midfielder Omar Jimenez toed in the first goal of the game midway through the second half, it started the Conquistadors on their expedition toward the Class 4A boys state soccer title as Del Valle won 3-2.
"The always-a-bridesmaid thing isn't fun. I'm sick of silver," said Brenham coach Erik Lane, who has coached his teams to a trio of state runner-up spots. "There's nothing anybody can say at this point and time that's going to make them fell any better. Each kid on his own will have to come to grips with the fact that we had a great season and finished second.
"They'll be proud of their accomplishment later, but there won't be anything that can be said tonight that's going to ease the sting."
Despite Del Valle dominating play for most of the first half, the match was scoreless until the Conquistadors used a second-half combination. Senior Nasser Abraham chipped over his head to Oscar De Lara, who pushed the ball ahead to Jimenez. Wren, whose positioning and reactions were exceptional all match, had no chance to make a save on the goal with 23:41 left in the match.
Jimenez later sent a centering pass across the goal, and it went off Brenham's Irving Lopez to give Del Valle a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs then mounted an improbable run that ended with a standing ovation from an appreciative Brenham crowd.
With Del Valle's starting goalkeeper Irving Mendez hurt, Brenham found room to attack against backup Aldo Delgadillo.
Zach Gore took a quick shot at Delgadillo, who knocked it away, but Brenham scored 3 minutes later. Estarlin Pereira-Celis sent a pass from the left of the goal to Will Betts, who hammered it into the net with 13:01 left.
Mendez returned to play goal, and Del Valle quickly regained a 3-1 lead when Abraham found a loose ball on the back side of the defense and scored.
But Brenham came back again. Pereira-Celis took a long pass, ran away from a defender and chipped the ball over Mendez near the edge of the 18-yard box, cutting Del Valle's lead to 3-2 with 3:22 left.
The Cubs couldn't get off another good shot.
"These kids improved all year," Lane said. "Even here in the last game, when things were not looking too good, we bounced back."
Wren was the MVP of the opening half with nine of his 11 overall saves, including five stops against Jimenez. Jimenez had the best of the Conquistadors' chances to score, racing on to a pass from freshman Oscar De Lara. Wren could only react, bumping away Jimenez' hard-hit shot. His chance at converting the rebound sailed wide.
It was the sixth shot Wren had to stop in the final 11:30 of the opening half.
"We were just trying to find our rhythm," Wren said. "They played a lot of short balls in the [18-yard box], and it was getting us out of our groove. We adjusted, but in the first half, whenever they got an opening, they ripped them."
Brenham, with forward Michael Moore as it only senior starter, finished the year at 22-3-2. Del Valle found gold with a 27-3-3 record.
"Credit Del Valle because they outplayed us," Lane said. "They stuck three in the net, and we stuck two in the net. They're a very talented team and a very deserving state champion."
Brenham had precious few opportunities to score in the first half, with Pereira-Celis' shot taken in easily by Mendez.
Wren went to the ground for his early saves, but had some tough one up high late in the first half.
"Those were all chest or head height and I just had to do my best to get my body behind it," said Wren, who had a quick one-handed push over the crossbar for one of his second-half saves.
"We have great team spirit," Lane said. "The bond among the kids is strong. I didn't put that into them. They came with that, and it makes my job real easy. It's about Brenham. The name on the front [of the jersey] is everything."
? David Campbell's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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