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Decatur soccer teams battle to the end, heading to state playoffs

by By Mike Eckels Special to the Eagle Observer | May 9, 2023 at 6:30 a.m.
Ariana Kumbera/Special to the Eagle Observer Buldlog Jose Uribe (right) knocks the ball away from a Tiger offensive player while teammate Robert Thang (left) blocks during the Friday night Decatur-Green Forest boys' soccer contest in Decatur. Green Forest claimed the victory, 6-0, over the Bulldogs to take the 2023 regular season conference championship.

DECATUR -- It was an exciting end to the 2023 soccer season as the 3A West Conference number three Decatur Bulldogs squared off against number one Green Forest Tigers in the final game at Bulldog Stadium on Decatur Friday night.

At stake for the Tigers was the sole top position of the regular season championship. For the Bulldogs, it was the chance to defeat the Tigers for the first time in three years. But the Bulldogs had one final hurdle before the Green Forest contest, the Life Way Christian Warriors.

The Bulldogs kicked off the May 1 contest at Bulldog Stadium in Decatur with a goal by Robert "T" Thang for the first lead of the contest. But late in the first half, the Warriors slipped the ball past veteran goalie Ben Watkins to tie the contest at one each.

The contest was decided late in the second half when Thang fired another goal past the Warrior goalie to retake the lead and, eventually, the conference win, 2-1, over Life Way. Now the stage was set for the final battle of the 2023 3A West soccer season.

When the Tigers took the field at Bulldog Stadium Friday night, the entire team had just one mission in mind, win the regular season championship. If Green Forest lost, they would have to share the championship with number two Haas Hall-Bentonville.

The fighting was fierce as both the Bulldogs and Tigers battled it out to be the first to score. Both teams stayed on the offensive throughout the first 40-minute half. Just seven minutes into the half, the Tigers fired a shot past Bulldog goalie Ben Watkins and into the net for the first goal of the night.

The Bulldogs tried to counter on the next possession, but the Tiger goalkeeper grabbed the ball as Thang fired it toward the net. The attacks on opposing goals continued for the next 30 minutes, with Green Forest able to pick up three more points to take a 4-0 lead into the halftime break.

Fighting continued throughout the second half as the Bulldogs kept on the offensive, firing the ball toward the net at least 20 times but to no avail. The Green Forest Tigers managed two more goals to take the conference win, 6-0, over the Decatur Bulldogs and the regular season championship.

The Decatur Bulldogs finished the 2023 season with a conference record of nine wins, three losses, and two ties. Their overall record was 10 wins, three losses, and two ties.

The 3A West boys' soccer conference ended with Green Forest at the top, followed by Haas Hall-Bentonville, Decatur, and Eureka Springs in the top four spots. These teams will square off against the 3A eastern and northern conferences in Harrison for the conference championship on May 11-13

The eastern opponents have yet to be announced, but the Bulldogs boys are scheduled to play the east number two seed at 7 p.m. on May 11 at the Harrison soccer complex. Go to decatursd.com for any changes to the schedule.


The Lady Bulldogs will be going to the 2023 playoffs in Harrison on May 11 since the team pulled off a big victory during the season finale at home Friday night. Although the Lady Bulldogs did not win the contest as such, the team managed to keep number two Green Forest scoreless throughout the 80-minute contest.

It was a bittersweet ending for Lady Bulldog senior Anette Hernandez as she played her final match before the hometown fans. For the final regular season Lady Bulldog contest, Hernandez was moved from goalie to the defensive line, while California Herrington, who is training to take Hernandez' place, was moved into the goalie position.

The battle was on as the Lady Bulldogs, facing last year's conference champion, played one of its best defensive contests of the season, thanks mainly to Herrington's goalkeeping.

Toward the end of the second half, with the match still tied 0-0, the Lady Tigers went on the attack, driving the ball down to the Lady Bulldogs' goal. Suddenly a crowd of Decatur and Green Forest players surrounded the goal, with the ball flying everywhere. Three times it looked as if it went into the net, and three times Herrington and the Lady Bulldog defensive line held fast. The ball eventually went over the top of the goal and out of bounds staving off the Lady Tiger attack.

When time expired on the final Decatur Lady Bulldogs contest of the year, neither team had scored a goal, ending the season with a scoreless tie.

The tie with Green Forest did not change the final 3A West conference standings. The Life Way Lady Warriors, who Decatur lost May 1 at Bulldog Stadium, 4-0, held the top spot, with the Lady Tigers number two, the Lady Bulldogs number three, and Lincoln at number four.

The Decatur Lady Bulldogs finished the 2023 regular season with an overall record of five wins, three losses and two ties, and a conference record of four wins, three losses and two lies.

The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Harrison on May 11 to participate in their second state tournament since the team restarted in 2022. The brackets had yet to be set by press time. Go to decatursd.com for more tournament information.

photo Mike Eckels/Special to the Eagle Observer Lady Bulldog Lindy Lee (10) manages to kick the ball away from a Lady Tiger player during the Decatur senior night contest against Green Forest at Bulldog Stadium in Decatur Friday night. For the first time in nearly five years, the Lady Bulldogs were able to hold the Lady Tigers scoreless for a tie.
photo Mike Eckels/Special to the Eagle Observer Sydnie Brooks (7) moves the ball downfield for an attack on the Lady Warrior defended goal during the May 1 Decatur-Life Way girls' soccer contest at Bulldog Stadium in Decatur. Brooks was about to shoot when a Lady Warrior kicked the ball to the sideline, preventing a Lady Bulldog goal.

Print Headline: Decatur soccer teams battle to the end, heading to state playoffs


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