Sterlington 2, Tioga 1

Powered by goals from Duke Villarreal and Markail Madison in the final 16 minutes, Sterlington turned a near defeat into a 2-1 victory over Tioga in a warm, windy Saturday matinee at Panther Field.

Sterlington finally solved Tioga goalkeeper Steve Bryan on Villarreal's close range goal in the 64th minute.

Villarreal threatened again moments later when his shot from 25 yards out whizzed over the crossbar.

Back on the other end, Tioga narrowly missed an opportunity to retake the lead when Guillermo Arellano blasted a shot off the right (near) post in the 68th minute.

With under six minutes to play, Fox Bryan was taken down inside the box by Tioga's Nick Hoke on what was ruled a legal tackle.

After the change of possession, Sterlington coach Kyle Keyes received a yellow card for protesting a foul call against the Panthers.

Sterlington would get another chance, though. Maneuvering through the box after taking a pass from Jacob Dupree, Madison struck the game-winner into the net from eight yards out in the 79th minute.

Keyes attributed the Panthers' slow start to a late night. Many of the soccer players attended the football team's semifinal game in Iota, which Sterlington won 21-12. Saturday's match kicked off at noon.

"Tioga played a great game, I have to give them credit," Keyes said. "A lot of our guys went down there for the football game and didn't get home until late. We were very sluggish today. It wasn't our best performance. They always say a good team can win when they don't perform their best."

Sterlington took the game's first three shots, including Cooper Grunsky's 17-yard laser, which was batted away by Bryan.

Tioga outplayed the Panthers over the next 30 minutes. Demonde Mitchell's rebound goal in the ninth minute gave the Indians a 1-0 lead.

Tioga out-shot the Panthers 9-5 in the first half. Regrouping during the interval, Sterlington held a decisive 9-2 edge in second half shots.

Sterlington has allowed only three goals through five games.

"Our defense is really starting to jell and play as a unit," Keyes said of the group which consists of Sam Gilbert, Bryan, Connor Bowlin, Austin Booth, Connor White and Jonah Mulhern.

Despite playing without four football players, the Panthers are off to a 4-1 start. Sterlington will play Eunice for the Class 3A state championship Saturday at 7 p.m. in New Orleans.

"We'll get our football players back after next week," Keyes said.

Sterlington will play Neville on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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STATS

THS ......................... SHS

11 ..... Shots ................. 14

3 ....... Shots on target ... 7

4 ...... Corner kicks ...... 4

3 ...... Offsides .............. 3

8 ....... Fouls .................. 5

0 ...... Yellow Cards ...... 1