Panthers Crush Sunset in Playoff Opener

Hillcrest's Alfonso Gonzalez is defended by Sunset's Gaspar Estrada during a Class 5A Region II bi-district game on Friday. The Panthers won 5-3. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Hillcrest’s Alfonso Gonzalez is defended by Sunset’s Gaspar Estrada during a playoff game on Friday. The Panthers won 5-3. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

With a heartbreaking playoff loss from last year still lingering in its mind, Hillcrest opened its latest postseason run looking like a team on a mission.

The Panthers built a five-goal lead, then withstood a late Sunset rally for a 5-3 win in a Class 5A Region II bi-district game on Friday at Sprague Stadium.

Hillcrest head coach Willy Flores said the disappointment from the area-round overtime defeat against McKinney a year ago has been a motivator all season.

“We definitely don’t want that to happen again,” Flores said. “We hope to go further. We’ve got good players and they have good chemistry.”

The Panthers (19-4) tallied their first two goals less than two minutes apart midway through the first half. Axel Castillo opened the scoring on a penalty kick, and Yaya Dosso — one of the top strikers in the Dallas area this season — made the score 2-0.

From there, Alexis Enriquez scored on the counterattack to extend the margin to three goals at halftime. Castillo and Jair Balderas stretched the lead to 5-0 in the second half.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Juan Calixto — playing in his fourth varsity season at Hillcrest — withstood an early flurry by the Bison (10-4-4) and saved every shot he faced. Sunset managed three goals in the final 11 minutes against Hillcrest’s reserves to close the gap.

“Overall, we did fairly well,” said Flores, whose team was the runner-up in District 11-5A during the regular season. “They played the way they usually play.”

The Panthers will face Cleburne next week in the area round at a time and site to be determined.

On the girls side, Hillcrest’s return to the playoffs was short-lived, as the Lady Panthers fell 2-0 to Sunset on Friday.

Hillcrest qualified for postseason play after missing out the past few years. And despite allowing a pair of second-half goals while playing against a stiff breeze, head coach Jorge Acosta said his team gained valuable experience that can continue to build the program.

“We have improved this year,” Acosta said. “We can go ahead and compete next year and get back to the playoffs. It was a good experience. I’m proud of how they played.”

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