Set plays were Murray County High School boys soccer coach Marco Burgueno’s biggest fear entering Friday’s match with Lovett.
It took less than 10 minutes for him to start living the nightmare.
The Lions scored all of the game’s goals from set plays for a 3-0 win and ended the host Indians’ season in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Murray County (14-4) finished second in Region 7-2A, while Lovett (7-6-3) was Region 6’s No. 3 seed. However, the Lions are ranked third in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 2A poll and Burgueno acknowledged their reputation of scoring most of their goals after a stoppage of play.
“(Defending set plays) is our weakness and that happens to be their strength,” he said.
In the game’s ninth minute, Lovett’s Andrew Siegel headed in a throw-in for the game’s first goal. Six minutes later, Alan Floyd volleyed a corner kick barely inside the right post.
“We’re smaller and needed to put a physical touch on them,” Burgueno said. “It was more like we were pointing (at their mark) and then would just watch the ball. We needed to prevent them from getting to that spot.”
Murray County earned chances toward the end of the first half — the best came from Jose Ruiz’s free kick in the 36th minute, which appeared on target before a defender’s diving header sent it out of danger. Ruiz, a center midfielder, led the team with 29 goals this year but took only two shots against Lovett.
The Lions’ third goal was less of their own earning and more the Indians’ mistake. Lovett midfielder Harrison Leeson’s deep throw-in deflected off Murray County goalkeeper Humberto Alvarez’s fingers and into the net. Alvarez’s contact with the ball allowed the goal to be legitimate.
Lovett coach Jimmy Jewell said his team prides itself off scoring this way and Murray County’s narrow field allowed more of those chances. The Lions had 15 set plays — which includes free kicks, corner kicks and throw-ins.
“When we knew the field was this narrow, (we knew) it would be more to our advantage,” Jewell said.
Lovett didn’t enjoy the same success in the second half, but Murray County’s best opportunity was a Ruiz free kick that was saved by goalkeeper James Foster. The Indians only had four shots on goal, while their opponents tallied 13. Alvarez made seven saves and Foster’s quiet day included just two saves.
“I’m proud of the team,” Burgueno said. “The second half was much better.”
Murray County will lose five players to graduation: striker Alberto Soto; defenders Manny Bautista, Rigo Jarquin and Miguel Andrade; and Alvarez.
Lovett’s second-round opponent is the winner of Bremen and Riverside Military.