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Several Paris Wildcats celebrate together after beating Chapel Hill in a shootout on Friday.

After 100 minutes of soccer on Friday night, the Paris Wildcats and Chapel Hill Bulldogs had been unable to find the back of the goal even once, and remained deadlocked in a scoreless tie. The two teams went to a dramatic shootout with a berth in the regional semifinals on the line, and it was the Wildcats who emerged victorious.

Joe Ramirez, Edwin Gonzalez and Miguel Rivera each scored in the shootout for Paris.

On the other end of the shootout, Paris goalie Lito Ibarra allowed just one goal, stopping three from Chapel Hill.

“I wasn’t nervous or anything,” Ibarra said of facing down the quartet of Bulldogs in the shootout. “I just blocked everything out and focused on the game. I looked into their eyes and saw where they were going to go.”

“He is a pure goalie, plain and simple,” Paris assistant coach Justin Frazier said of Ibarra’s performance. “It is a luxury to have him in goal.”

While the Wildcats have enjoyed a tremendous amount of regular season success in recent years, winning the district title in each of the previous seven seasons, this is the first time in that stretch the team has gone four rounds deep into the playoffs.

“It feels amazing,” Gonzalez said after the game, a grin spread across his face. “This is something that none of us have done, and we’re not done yet.”

The Wildcats’ first good look at the goal came mere seconds into the game. After splitting a pair of Chapel Hill defenders, Miguel Rivera had one man to beat — the Bulldogs’ goalie. Rivera put up a shot, but it was swallowed up. That would become a trend for the rest of the game, as Gonzalez and Rivera peppered the Chapel Hill goal with shots.

“We knew going in that their goalie was really good,” Frazier said. “We knew that if we stayed aggressive and kept after it, eventually something would give. That didn’t happen in regulation, obviously, but it happened once we went to

the shootout.”

For most of the game, the time of possession was fairly balanced between the two teams, with each doing a good job of moving and protecting the ball. Despite that, the Wildcats dominated Chapel Hill when it came to shots on goal, a testament to the work done by Paris’ back line.

“Our defense has been stellar all season long,” Frazier said. “We’ve allowed two goals in the course of play all season, and both came off (penalty kicks) or corner kicks.”

The Paris backs and midfielders held strong against the speedy Chapel Hill offense, made all the more impressive by the fact that they were playing without senior leader Grant Lowery, who had to sit the game out after drawing a red card in the team’s previous game.

“There were definitely spots out there where we could’ve used him,” Frazier said. “He’s the glue of that midfield, and pulls them together. I’m proud, though, of how the guys played without him and we had a few guys step up big time.”

With the win, the Wildcats advance to the regional semifinals, where they’ll face the Celina Bobcats. The game will be played Tuesday, though a location has not yet been determined.

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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