With a soccer playoff berth on the line Monday evening, Sherman’s boys moved their rivalry game against Denison to the early 5:30 p.m. start at Bearcat Stadium so they would have a chance to clinch a postseason spot without watching the scoreboard.
The Bearcats ended the suspense way earlier than they figured they would — and will be returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence.
It was Senior Night, and fittingly, outgoing players all figured in the scoring in their final home match. Tristen VanSant started the parade with the first of two goals, and the Bearcats erased the bad memory of last month’s scoreless tie at Denison, pouring it on to the tune of a 6-0 rout in the District 5-5A and regular-season finale.
With about three minutes left, Sherman’s players gave longtime head coach Chico Aleman an ice-water bath, a just reward for a resurgent year.
The Bearcats (8-9-3, 5-4-3) earned the fourth seed in the upcoming Class 5A Region I playoffs and will face Aledo, the 6-3A champion, March 23-25 in the bi-district round at a site to be determined.
Sherman entered the game needing a win to clinch, or a tie combined with a Denton win or loss. The Broncos ended up beating Denton Braswell, but the Bearcats rendered that moot.
Aleman made some changes for Monday’s game, moving senior Austin White to midfield and installing fellow senior Erick Aguilera at center back. As a result, very few balls trickled into Sherman’s side of the midway stripe. Senior Alonzo Ramirez only had to make five saves for the shutout in goal, three of which were on long balls that were easily grabbed.
Tanner Dunn, Hugo Espinoza, and White all netted goals in addition to VanSant’s brace, and Denison (3-16-3, 0-10-2) helped out with an own goal early in the first half.
Other seniors going out on a winning note were Matt Schulze, Kevin Escobar, Andres Sanchez and Ethan Rowland.
Aguilera was yellow-carded early on for a cleats-up tackle, but that only set the stage for VanSant, who went on a long run and right-footed the ball past Denison’s Osvaldo Delarosa as VanSant went to the ground for a 1-0 Sherman lead.
After the Yellow Jackets deflected a loose ball into their own net for an own goal, the Bearcats’ next tally came courtesy of Dunn, who headed in a Schulze corner kick to make it 3-0. Espinoza got into the scoring column on a nifty chip shot with exactly 7:00 to play in the half, sending the Bearcats into halftime with a comfortable four-goal cushion and one hand on the fourth seed.
With 28:32 left in the second half, VanSant recorded his second goal of the game off a throw-in, and just more than five minutes later, White got a long-sought goal off a rebounded corner, rounding out the ledger.
Denison’s Alex Santiago nearly got the Jackets on the board late in the game as the Jackets were finally able to win some corners, but Ramirez was there to scoop it up and preserve the whitewash.
Santiago and Delarosa were joined by senior teammates Aaron Suarez, Devin Perez, David Sauceda and Shane Roberts in making their Yellow Jacket farewells.