“The difference in this year and some other years is we have kids that refuse to give up,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “We were lethargic in the first half. But we kept our composure and kept coming back. Anytime you come back from a 2-0 deficit, against any team, it's a great thing. I was very proud of our guys.”
The Railroaders broke a 2-2 tie and posted the game-winning goal with two minutes left in the title tilt. Eric Ojeda-Ayala handled the scoring chores on the winning goal after an assist from Hector Hernandez.
Minutes before the game-winning goal, Ojeda-Ayala was given a yellow card and was removed from the game. Avilla then held his team’s leader and told him to relax, focus and of course, score the game winner.
“I was kind of frustrated and Coach Avilla calmed me down,” Ojeda-Ayala said. “I faked the shot ... and I moved to the right and it went it.”
Avilla knew what to expect from his leader.
“The one thing that’s constant is you know your kids,” Avilla said. “He’s (Ojeda-Ayala) a gamer. You tap one your best and he’s one of the best.”
It took a furious Sparks rally in the final 15 minutes of action Saturday for the SHS squad to salvage a win. Truckee led 2-0 before Sparks was able to muster any offense.
With 15 minutes remaining in the match, Juan Devalos got the Railroaders on the board. His goal trimmed the Truckee lead in half, 2-1. Then, in the 71st minute, Hernandez tied the match for Sparks at two goals apiece and set the stage for Ojeda-Ayala's late-game heroics. Edgar Casillas gave away the assist on the second Sparks goal.
The match was all Truckee through the first half and a large chunk of the second. Bryan Reed scored for Truckee at the seven-minute mark, forging the Wolverines ahead 1-0. Michael Brixey gave away the THS assist
The score stayed that way into the intermission and into the 60th minute. That's when Truckee extended its edge to 2-0. Brixey handled the scoring honors on the second Truckee score.
“We started off really well with high energy,” Truckee coach Hernan Valdivia said. “Sparks did an incredible job of not giving up. We were decimated by injuries and they took advantage of that.”
Sparks will take the Northern 3A's top seed into state tournament play next weekend. The event will be hosted in Mesquite. Sparks will meet Truckee in one state semifinal Friday while South Tahoe gets Boulder City in the other.