Even when things went horribly wrong Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Northern 4A Regional tournament, somehow everything turned out alright for the Purple and White.
The Cougars had to play 10-on-11 soccer for over 90 percent of their first-round playoff contest with Damonte Ranch, but still came away with a 2-0 victory to make school history.
“It was a huge win. I thought we played better than they did even with a man down, our touch and our control was better,” SSHS boys soccer coach Rob Moreland said. “Two-nothing is a great win for being down.”
The Mustangs put a scare into the home crowd almost from the opening kick.
Two minutes in, Damonte tested Spanish Springs goalkeeper Ivan Trujillo. Trujillo had to come off his line and block a point-blank shot with his chest.
The High Desert League’s No. 2 seed dodged a potential dagger after six minutes ticked off the clock. Damonte kicked a long ball down field. Trujillo came out of the box in a routine clear attempt, but his kick was blocked backward by a teammate.
That allowed a Mustang to get the ball and head toward the goal. Defender Victor Diaz sacrificed himself and made a tackle from behind to prevent an empty-net goal. Unfortunately that led to a red card and a penalty kick, so the Cougars had to play a man down for 74 of the 80-minute regulation.
Bill Morales took the penalty kick but he blasted the underside of the crossbar and the ball ricocheted back toward the field, leaving it a scoreless tie.
In the 11th minute, the Cougars had Lady Luck smile on them when they earned a penalty kick off a throw-in set play. Spanish Springs packed in the box and drew a foul on the play.
Senior Irvin Somera lined up for the PK and drilled it into the right side of the goal as the keeper dove left for a 1-0 lead.
That’s how the score remained heading into halftime, despite the home team dominating possession and shot attempts.
Seventeen minutes into the second half, Alex Garcia-Garcia blew past two levels of defense with his speed but he couldn’t get a clear lane for a cross. Instead, he took it all the way to the end line before stopping on a dime, making a defender fall past him when he couldn’t stop his momentum. That opened a hole for a cross and he found Victor Byers’ foot, who just tapped it in for a 2-0 lead.
It was Garcia-Garcia’s first game with the Cougars. He was ineligible up until Monday since he lived in Mexico last year and Moreland calls him the secret weapon who makes them twice the team.
“I was just playing my game and trying to help out the team,” Garcia-Garcia said. “It didn’t matter if I got an assist. I just wanted the team to win and make it to the next round. It feels great to make school history.”
Monday was the first playoff game win for any fall sports program in Spanish Springs’ 10-year history.
The Cougars (10-4-3) must take on Sierra League champion Galena (15-1-1), a 5-0 winner over McQueen in the quarterfinals, at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Damonte Ranch in the semifinals.