Defense was the name of the game as the soccer playoffs got underway on a cool Thursday night in Tyler.

Perennial powerhouse Palestine downed the up-and-coming Carthage Bulldogs, 2-0, on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

Both goalkeepers were up to the task as Palestine senior Jesus Vigil and Carthage sophomore Jacob Whatley, swatting away shots for the attackers.

The Wildcats got on the board with a 2-on-1 fast break that junior Diego Farias maneuvered and found the right side of the net at 28:54 of the second half.

At the 3:03 the Wildcats’ sophomore Tony Gracia scored for 2-0 victory.

Palestine Coach John Absalom, whose club has won seven straight district titles, praises his veteran defensive unit, goalkeeper Vigil, Michael Chaidez and Yoriel Reyes.

Carthage Coach James Watson said his team was disappointed with the loss, but he was proud of the way they competed.

“They are as good as advertised and we need that going in with their tradition,” Watson said. “They are somehow faster than I thought they could be. Our kids gave a good performance. When you are four seed and playing a one, it is an uphill battle and you want your kids to play unbelievable hard and well, represent their school, town and their school well and I felt like they did.”

Watson praised his veteran backline, “Those four guys are multi-year starters who helped us win many ballgames.”

Those four senior Bulldogs include centerbacks Jonathan Medrano and Logan Ortigo, along with outside backs Alan Barcenas and Irvin Jiminez.

“With that back line and goalie they give some gutty, tough performances,” Watson said. “...It was a tough loss. I have 12 seniors and I am so proud of all of them. Tonight is going to hurt and it’s going to hurt for a while. But they will look back be round of what they did against a high-caliber team and what they have done over their career and senior season. ... As the days and weeks go on we will be able to smile little bit and be proud of what we’ve done.”

Absalom also praised the Carthage defense and Whatley in goal.

“Their keeper (Whatley) kept them in the match; He did a phenomenal job,” said Absalom, who led his team to the 2016 state championship. “That kid can play.”

Palestine (26-5-2) advances to meet the winner of the Lindale vs. Chapel Hill winner next week in area. Carthage ends its season at 16-8-1.

Other seniors on the Bulldogs squad are Walker Flori, Pedro Garcia, Jose Hernandez, Whitton Malone, Carlos Velazquez, Cristian Godinez, Gannon Robin and Dalton Collinsworth.

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