Instead, the Maroon and Gold ended South Tahoe’s undefeated run by securing a 2-1 triumph.
“We’ve been preparing for this game since the beginning of the year,” Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said. “Since we played them at home, they let us in the door and we knew we could play with them. Both sides played with honor. They played with good touch at times and good speed. Both teams had an unmatched desire to want to win.”
Sparks got on the board first when Kevin Partida threaded a needle with a perfect pass. Eric Ojeda was there to one-time it off a bounce with his left foot and into the back of the net with 18 minutes left in the first half.
Before the Railroaders had a chance to enjoy the 1-0 lead, the Vikings answered with the equalizer a minute later. Some controversy surrounded the goal. The linesman thought Sparks goalkeeper Javier Torres had a hand on the ball when it was kicked into the goal, but the referee saw it differently and signaled for a goal, leaving the game tied at 1-1.
That’s how the score remained until the second half.
Overall, the game was very physical and several yellow cards were handed out with South Tahoe being on the receiving end. It was an over-physical play that helped give Sparks the win.
Fourteen minutes into the second half, Ojeda made a run toward the goal. He momentarily lost control of the ball after getting past the last defender. That same defender came sliding in to knock the ball away, but he missed the ball and took out Ojeda’s legs in the box, leading to a foul call and a penalty kick.
Ojeda was injured on the play, so Partida lined up for the PK. It looked like Partida was aimed right, but he hooked his leg around the ball on the shot and went low and left for what proved to be the game-winner.
The game was far from over though and the Vikings unleashed a barrage of offense over a 20-minute span. Luckily for the upset-minded No. 3 seed, every attack was turned away, including a game-saver with eight minutes remaining in the contest.
South Tahoe’s Cody Williams had a shot from point-blank range that Torres would have had to come up with something special to stop, but fullback Daniel Cervantes-Duron came out of nowhere to slide in and partially block the attempt, sending it over the top of the goal.
Friday’s win guarantees Sparks (11-3-3) a spot in next week’s state tournament, but the Maroon and Gold has a chance to win its second regional crown in school history when it takes on Truckee today at noon. The Wolverines advanced by taking down Elko, 7-0, in the other semifinal.
South Tahoe (12-1-1) takes on Elko in the third-place match for a chance to earn the third and final spot for the state tournament.