Palo Verde boys soccer coach Kevin Hagood might have started to believe he’d never make it past the second round of the playoffs.
But when Austin Manthey’s penalty kick hit the net on Thursday, a weight lifted from the coach’s shoulders as the Panthers topped Bishop Gorman 4-2 on penalty kicks in the Sunset Region semifinals at Heritage Park. The game was tied 2-2 through regulation and two sudden-death overtime periods.
“It was just amazingly incredible,” Hagood said. “Never in my life have I seen something more deserving for a group of boys who have worked so hard. And for a program and a school that just year after year after year after year seems to run into this juggernaut.”
The Panthers (18-0-1) have made the Sunset Region tournament 15 straight years but never had advanced past the second round. Palo Verde had lost six times in the semifinals, three of those against Gorman, which beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime in last season’s semifinals. The Gaels have eliminated Palo Verde from the playoffs six times.
“Just a lot of frustration came out right there,” Hagood said. “There’s never been a more deserving program and a group of kids. I’m just so proud of them. I told them this would be the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their lives, getting past this round.”
Gorman (10-3-2) went first in the shootout, and Sean Keith clanked his shot off the right post. Palo Verde goalkeeper Nishesh Yadav then dived to his right to deflect Jake Bickford’s next attempt, essentially giving the Panthers the edge in the shootout.
Eli Ruffer, Nolan Sherwood and Austin Polster stepped up and made their shots before Manthey clinched it.
Sherwood’s goal four minutes into the second half tied the game at 2. Gorman had taken a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first half when Tristan Blackmon scored.
Sherwood scored earlier in the half to tie the game at 1. Gorman took the early lead when Bickford was in front of the net to put home Jeremy Vitale’s long throw-in.
The Panthers will play Cimarron-Memorial (13-3-4) at noon Saturday for the title and a berth in next week’s Division I state tournament.
■ Cimarron-Memorial 1, Shadow Ridge 0 — Freshman Dresden Quackenbush scored with 17 minutes to play to give the Spatans the win over the Mustangs (10-6-7).
Quackenbush took a cross from Nico De La Torre near the top of the penalty box, turned to his right and fired a shot into the lower left corner.
Goalkeeper Richard Crews made seven saves to earn the shutout, including a spectacular stop of a Dominic Damato shot with five minutes to play. Damato made a long run through the defense and blasted a shot toward the lower right corner. Crews’ upper body was leaning away from the play, but he got his right foot on the ball to poke it away.
“His body’s going left, and he’s saving with his right foot,” Cimarron coach Mark Bailey said. “Right place, right time maybe, but that kid was standing on his head as they say in hockey.”
Victor Marquez didn’t start Thursday’s region semifinal.
But Green Valley’s senior goalkeeper made his presence known.
Marquez made four saves in the final 85 minutes of regulation and two overtimes and then made two key saves in a penalty-kick shootout to help the Gators earn a 1-1 tie with Las Vegas in the Sunrise Region semifinals at Heritage Park.
Green Valley (13-8-3) won the penalty-kick shootout 3-0 to advance to the region final against Eldorado (18-0-2) at noon Saturday.
“He was special today,” Green Valley coach Jacob Rivera said of Marquez. “He worked his butt off.”
Marquez replaced starting goalkeeper Bryant Peralta 25 minutes into the match with the score tied at 1-1 on goals by Green Valley’s Daniel Mojica and Las Vegas’ Danny Nunez.
Marquez saved his best work for the shootout.
After Green Valley’s Roberto Rodriguez scored on the first penalty kick, Marquez dived to stop a shot by Ricardo Guzman. Scott Schofield gave the Gators a 2-0 advantage in the shootout before Marquez made a slightly easier save on a shot to the right side of the goal.
Both teams missed the frame in the third round before Breno Rocha converted to give the Gators an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the shootout.
Las Vegas finished 12-6-4.
■ Eldorado 6, Canyon Springs 1 — Andres Lua scored twice in a three-minute span in the first half and tacked on a goal with five minutes left in the match to help the Sundevils top the Pioneers.
Canyon Springs (9-7-3) drew first blood on a Jonathan Martinez goal 10 minutes into the match, but it took Lua only two minutes and some sweet moves to steal the momentum for good.
After a lead pass from Chris Perez, Lua stepped around three defenders before drilling a left-footed shot from 18 yards out into the net to tie the match.
Three minutes later, the same duo struck with Perez chipping a pass to Lua on the right side of the goal. Lua touched the ball past Canyon Springs goalkeeper Raymond Ruano to give the Sundevils the lead for good.
Perez, Israel Hernandez and Victor Damian also scored for Eldorado.
Sunrise Mountain coach Brett Underwood told his team that something special was going to happen if it just believed.
On Thursday, the Miners pulled off their second upset in three days in the Division I-A Southern Region tournament by ousting previously unbeaten Desert Pines 3-1.
Sunrise Mountain (10-4-2) will face Tech (17-5-3) in the region title match at noon Saturday. Both teams qualify for the state tournament next week.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” Underwood said. “We’ve had a long-running history of losing, and maybe we’ve now flipped the script. I almost feel like I’m dreaming, really.”
Sunrise Mountain stormed to a 2-0 lead 14 minutes into the match on goals by Luis Garcia-Chapurro and Enrique Pedraza.
Desert Pines (12-1-3) trimmed the lead to 2-1 midway through the first half on Diego Sanchez’s goal but got no closer.
Sunrise Mountain’s Jose Arellano scored with 12 minutes left.
■ Tech 4, Chaparral 0 — Derian Salcido had three goals and an assist as the Roadrunners eliminated the Cowboys (9-7-1).
“Unbelievable game today,” Tech coach Josh Jones said of Salcido. “He’s usually one of the smaller guys on the field, but he plays like he’s 6-foot-5. He’s got one of the best shots on our team. He does a good job moving from that midfield into that attacking area.”
Goalkeeper Tyler Harvey made seven saves to earn the shutout. It was the third time he’s blanked Chaparral this season.
“I think we’re just peaking at the right time,” Jones said. “These guys have all been here before, so I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be nerves. It’s just about playing sound soccer and hopefully getting to the championship.”