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PREP SOCCER: Baltazar nets hat trick, leads De Queen to 4A title

by Mitchell Gladstone | May 21, 2023 at 3:45 a.m.
Players on the De Queen boys soccer team celebrate winning the Arkansas 4A state boys soccer championship game against Dardanelle at Estes Stadium on the UCA campus in Conway on Saturday, May 20, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

CONWAY -- De Queen senior Edwin Baltazar figured he'd see a similar type of defense to the ones he'd faced on the Leopards' run to the state final -- double and triple teams hoping to somehow stunt the 30-goal scorer.

When Baltazar and Coach Stephen Sloan realized Dardanelle wasn't even going to man-mark the star striker, they liked their chances.

Buoyed by Baltazar's hat trick Saturday morning, De Queen routed the Sand Lizards 5-2 at Estes Stadium on the University of Central Arkansas' campus and secured the Class 4A boys state soccer championship.

Although the title was the Leopards' first in eight years, it marked the program's seventh all-time title -- all under Sloan -- after De Queen won six championships over seven seasons between 2009-15.

"In soccer, you've got to have some breaks here and there," Sloan said. "A few of those [past] years, those breaks kind of went against us. This year, it just seemed like everything lined up and it was just one of those dream seasons."

Both teams needed the first 10 minutes to really find any kind of footing, but it was the Leopards who seized control from that point forward.

Baltazar, the tournament MVP, then opened the scoring in the 13th minute after a cross from the left wing eluded Dardanelle's keeper. When the ball fell kindly in the middle of the box, Baltazar slammed it home from 10 yards out.

De Queen (19-2) continued to pile up chances before eventually capitalizing in the 30th minute to double its lead. A free kick at midfield was played short before being swung in from the right and finding the head of a wide-open Baltazar, who put it high into the netting over the keeper.

"Everybody's been playing with each other since we were little, so we've kind of have chemistry built up," Baltazar said. "I scored three goals, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates."

Gustavo Garcia helped the Leopards continue punishing the Sand Lizard defense after halftime. He swiped one away after it landed between a defender and the goalie, pushing it over the line for De Queen's third goal. Garcia scored again three minutes later, tucking the ball between the right post and a hobbled keeper who'd clattered into the post seconds prior.

Down 5-0 after Baltazar's third, Dardanelle (14-6-1) found the net twice in the final 10 minutes through Alex Campos and a Jhoan Bonilla penalty.

But it was far too late against a Leopard squad that entered Saturday on a 14-game winning streak and, at least by the sound of its crowd, seemed to have the support of all 6,000 people from De Queen.

"I knew they'd be here. They showed up two years ago when we played in Benton," Sloan said, adding that he could barely communicate with his players throughout the game. "They're always there to support us and the big send-off yesterday in town was amazing."

Fortunately, the Leopards' head coach didn't have to tell his team much.

"[The players] never wanted to take a day off," Sloan said. "That speaks volumes to them and how bad they wanted it."

 Gallery: 4A Boys Soccer Championship

Print Headline: Baltazar nets hat trick, leads De Queen to 4A title


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