Had all things been equal, Tech’s boys soccer team might have rolled to an easy victory on Saturday.
But all things weren’t equal.
The Roadrunners, forced to play a man short after a first-half red card, overcame the disadvantage by scoring two late goals to beat Sparks 3-2 in the Division I-A state championship game at Heritage Park.
“This feels great,” said 14th-year Tech coach Josh Jones, whose team finished 23-0 to win its first state title. “We’ve been striving for this, and it’s been a long time coming.”
Senior forward Rafael Munoz netted the key goal, faking left before firing into the right corner from close range to put the Roadrunners up 2-1 with 12 minutes remaining.
“I felt like it was a dream,” Munoz said. “I faked it with my right foot and shot with my left because it just seemed simpler.”
Nothing was simple about the final minutes, as Tech appeared to put it away with four minutes left when Julio Vargas scored on a penalty kick to make it 3-1.
The Railroaders answered two minutes later when Kevin Partida scored on a header in heavy traffic to cut their deficit to 3-2.
“I think we were a little too overconfident there,” Jones said. “Maybe we were celebrating a little too early.”
Sparks, playing in its fourth straight state title game, came close to tying it several times down the stretch as the Roadrunners were forced to endure seven minutes of extra time.
Tech’s defense, though, held until the final whistle.
“Our defense has kept us in games all year,” Jones said. “Our guys didn’t back down.”
Hugo Flores gave Tech an early 1-0 lead, firing from the middle of a scrum in front of the net.
But Erik Gonzalez was eliminated with a red card minutes later, forcing Tech to play with 10 men the rest of the way.
“We scored first,” Jones said. “We were playing well, and then we got what I thought was a questionable call. I think we were a little stunned.”
Partida’s successful penalty kick two minutes later tied it for the Railroaders.
“We knew coming in they were going to be good, quick and fast,” Jones said. “We don’t have one superstar on this team. Any one guy can step up and score, and I think that’s what helped us when we lost a player.”
The score stayed 1-1 until Munoz gave Tech the lead for good.
“This feels great,” Munoz said. “In the final game, you always know you’re going to play the best. We stayed on top, and that’s why it feels so good to win.”