By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
Jules Burrows sat in the stands at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown as a sixth-grader when Rachel Allen was hoisted into the air by teammates following Midlothian Heritage winning the 2018 girls’ soccer state championship.
She vividly remembers the 2-1 victory against Jasper, which included both then-freshman Allen and Kylar Kenter scoring for the Jaguars. Three years later, Burrows decided it was time to leave her own mark on the field, state tournament and program.
And not just once. Or twice.
Burrows recorded a hat trick for (27-1-0) Midlothian Heritage to help claim the second 4A state soccer championship for the program and Midlothian ISD with a 6-nil victory Friday afternoon in muggy conditions against (23-2-0) Corpus Christi Calallen.
Her two first-half goals helped Heritage to a comfortable 4-nil halftime advantage. She then added a third early in the second half to complete the feat on her way to being recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the 4A title match — something Allen accomplished as a freshman in 2018.
“This is very exciting because now I am in her shoes and I remember watching how excited she was,” said Burrows of Allen, who she met for the first time this year. “[…] She means a lot because she is the one who introduced me to the team and she’s always been kind to me. She talks to me a lot and we hang out a lot. It’s helped me realize how important this all is to the team.”
Allen was quick to label Burrows as “my little prodigy” when asked about the freshman’s efforts throughout the season.
“She reminds me a lot of me my freshman year and she is really good,” Allen continued. “I’m excited to see how far she goes.”
Burrows scored in the 6th minute to put the Jaguars on top early, 1-nil. Burrows noted the first goal was her most memorable, at least for now, because “it happened in the first few minutes and I was just like, ‘Oh, wow. I just scored’,” she laughed.
Kerry Scott followed with a second Heritage goal roughly two minutes later. Another two minutes of game action passed and it was again Burrows who buried one in the back of the net for a 3-nil Jaguar lead as the match headed into the 11th minute.
The next Heritage goal took a while this time — all of seven minutes — but it was a poetic one. Allen, the 2018 state championship hero and senior captain, fired a shot from 25 yards out that deflected just over the outstretched hands of the Calallen keeper. Her goal put Heritage up, 4-nil, and allowed for the Jaguars to begin shuffling in every player in uniform before the halftime buzzer.
“I wanted to shoot it and I was thinking, ‘I want to score in the state championship and I’m open,’ so I thought I should just go ahead and go for it,” Allen recalled thinking, which did result in a slight pause before she uncorked the beauty near the upper-90.
That four-goal lead held over the final 23 minutes of the first half — but there were a dozen or more near misses for the Jaguars, who continued to control the ball and momentum deep into the Lady Wildcats’ zone.
Heritage head girls’ soccer coach Gerald Slovacek admitted that the Jaguars had to adjust their game in order to control the score and the ball in the 1-nil win against Celina in the state semifinals. He turned the team loose on Friday in Georgetown, however, and allowed his side to play true “Jaguar soccer.”
Slovacek explained that the Jaguars had a plan to “get out fast” and attack the Calallen defense from the outside inward. The coaching staff drew confidence from their film study that the Heritage side could potentially beat the Lady Wildcats’ outside defenders.
“We wanted to get the ball wide and use the width of the field,” he added. “We had to get behind [the ball] square and get the balls in. Our midfielders did a great job of finishing. Our outside forwards did a great job of beating their defenders and getting the ball in and that was the flow of the game. It was a great team effort. This team is so selfless. We had two goals going into this game. The first was to win state.
“The second was to get every person on our roster into the game and we accomplished both of those. We had several role players who haven’t gotten to play in the last few games, so to get them onto the field today, in a state championship game, warms my heart.”
All of those role players found themselves on the pitch during the first half, too.
Heritage continued its offensive onslaught and attack in the second half, with Burrows again finding the net in the 55th minute.
Burrows did “steal” the goal from Allen to secure the hat trick, though. The ball had already gone by the laid-out keeper and was rolling toward the line when she snuck in to send it back with a little more force. And she realized it in the moment, too.
Burrows laughed as she recalled thinking, “Oh shoot. I just did that. Whoops.”
Sydney Dickson scored the final goal — a header on a loose ball in front of goal — in the 77th minute to cap the Jaguars’ perfect day on the pitch with a 6-nil lead. The countdown to the celebration was on, despite the raucous Heritage fanbase clamoring for one more goal, which would’ve set a new 4A state record.
Six was quite enough, as it turned out.
BITTERSWEET RETURN AND FAREWELL
Heritage defeated Jasper to win the first-ever state championship for the program and school district in 2018. That side defeated Liberty Hill in penalty kicks, with now-senior captain Kylar Kenter netting the match-winner. Kenter also scored the equalizer late in the second half of the state title match to send the game into overtime.
Kenter, who tore an ACL this summer, returned to action for the first time this season in the 4A regional semifinal match against Stephenville. Heritage won that match 2-1, which would prove to be the lone goal allowed by Jaedyn Barela and the Jaguar defense throughout the state championship run.
Unfortunately, it was also an ACL tear that left Heritage without the services of its leading goal scorer, Logan Berumen, for the state tournament. Berumen suffered her torn ACL in the regional final win against Argyle (1-0).
Kenter said she “was more excited than nervous” to return to the pitch in Georgetown, even if for limited minutes.
“It was awesome to come back here as a senior again,” she continued. “It made it just that much more exciting and fun. I am super thankful that my teammates worked their tails off to get here so that I could even have the opportunity. It gives you goosebumps and it makes you excited for the future and to see what all [the underclassmen] are going to accomplish.”
When asked which gold medallion will mean more, Kenter admitted it’d be the second.
“The first was exciting and memorable because I got to score in the state game, but this one will probably mean more just because I was able to come back from an injury and got to play again. It’ll be more sentimental,” she said. “Oof. I might tear up.”
Allen echoed her fellow captain’s feelings on the victory and second state title.
“This was so exciting and there was definitely a huge difference between freshman year and senior year. It was really, really exciting. It was also relaxing and we were able to have so much fun,” Allen said. “[…] After winning freshman year and this being my senior year, I came into the season knowing that it would be awesome to go out there and win another one. Our entire team put in 110% and everyone played as a team all season. I am very proud of everyone.”
As for Slovacek, the second state title also means saying farewell to a five-member senior class that has cemented their legacy of legacies in Midlothian ISD lore — and one that he and the coaching staff are not quite ready to see leave the Heritage locker room.
Shortly after the on-field celebrations concluded, Slovacek embraced all five seniors — Allen, Kenter, Hannah Dorsey and Barela — near the same sideline in which they all took the field as freshmen. The rowdy student section was in the same area of bleachers as they were in 2018, just behind where the six met one last time.
The moment was poetic.
“Those girls are phenomenal,” said Slovacek as he recalled the brief discussion with his seniors. “I told them that they bookended their careers with state championships. The leadership of that group, the charisma of that group and the fun nature of that group was a tremendous asset to our team. I knew going into this year that this group was not going to stand for anything other than a state championship and they got it done.
“They were the leaders of this team. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’m going to miss them immensely and I don’t even want to think about it. And I haven’t. Last night we talked a little bit about it but this was a great group and I am going to miss them.”
Slovacek explained the team entered this season with an NPLS mindset — an acronym for No Place Like State. He admitted the goal was bold, but knew full and well that this team was more than capable. They were destined.
“We knew those last few games in our regional and then the state semifinal against Celina were all really tough games that prepared us,” he said. “We played a tough pre-district and won a lot of games that we had lost in the past, so we tested ourselves. We strive for those really competitive games and those are what the girls live for. Going into this game was all about playing our game.
“[…] The first [state title] was such a crazy whirlwind to get here and we kind of came out of nowhere as a third-year program. This year, there is anybody in the state who didn’t already know who the Jaguars were.”
There is certainly no doubting Slovacek’s claim, either. This second state championship in the program’s fifth full season has vaulted the Jaguars among the state’s best — regardless of classification.
And you’d be foolish to think the next group of Jaguars are intimidated by any stage or pressure. Just ask Burrows.
“Nope. I love it.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith