The Eldorado Sundevils rallied from a 2-1 halftime deficit to upset the Las Vegas Wildcats, the defending Class 4A state champions, and claim the Mountain Region title Friday at Bettye Wilson Park.
The game-winning goal came off a corner kick at the 57-minute mark of the game. The top-seeded Wildcats stopped the initial kick but couldn’t clear the box as senior defender Jesus Espejo dove for a loose ball, and his header found the back of the net.
“It feels amazing,” Espejo said. “Three years of putting in hard work. I didn’t imagine I’d score the winning goal, but it’s amazing. I just saw the ball coming in, and I thought this is my chance, so I took my chance and it went in. A happy moment. I cannot even speak right now.”
Espejo was there because of a shift in strategy for the second-seeded Sundevils (18-2-4) after the Wildcats dominated the first half, and Eldorado coach David Ostler decided to put more players in the box on the offensive end.
“All of them step up in different ways,” Ostler said. “That’s what so great about this team. Each boy has a role, knows their role and each role is important, and that was (Espejo’s) time to step up. He’s a defender. We told them at halftime we have to put more bodies in the box, and he put his body in the box.”
The win qualifies the Sundevils for the Class 4A state tournament next week in Reno. The victory also gives Eldorado its second regional title in three years.
“The boys put the work in during the summer,” Ostler said. “The boys run, and they run hard. It feels great to see them achieve this. That’s the best thing. As a teacher, you just want your kids to do well and that’s what they did today.”
The Sundevils overcame Las Vegas’ early offensive push in the first half and took the lead when Roberto Soto scored on a free kick at the 11-minute mark.
The Wildcats (21-2-1) stormed back as Rigo Carrasco scored off an assist from Nathan Zamora to tie the game at one at the 21-minute mark. Five minutes later, Zamora gave the Wildcats to lead when he scored off a penalty kick.
The Sundevils tied the score at two when Adrian Figueroa-Corrales scored 10 minutes into the second half.
“We just want to play our style and touch our ball,” Ostler said. “When we move the ball on the ground and pass and work as a team, we are really dangerous. We just wanted to refocus on our energy and what we were doing and move the ball.”
The Wildcats will play in the first round of the state tournament against Coronado at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bettye Wilson Park. The Cougars lost to Bishop Gorman in the Desert Region title game.
Bishop Gorman 1, Coronado 0 — Brophy Howard scored off an assist from Hiram Triana to lead the Gaels to the Desert Region title.
The victory gives Gorman (24-0-1) its second regional title in three years.
Diesel Fiore had four saves in goal for the Gaels.
Third-seeded Coronado (16-4-3) will meet Las Vegas in the first round of the state tournament at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bettye Wilson Park.
Faith Lutheran 2, Centennial 0 — At Bettye Wilson Park, Amelia McManus scored two second-half goals to lift the Crusaders to the Class 4A Mountain Region title.
Serene Gronauer and Taylor Day each had assists for Faith Lutheran (21-0-1). Jordan Brown had five saves in goals for the Crusaders to preserve the shutout.
The Cruasaders won despite missing five players, who are playing in a tournament for their club teams this weekend, and took care of the only team that has managed to play them even. Centennial and Faith Lutheran tied 0-0 in the regular season.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (15-3-1) will meet Desert Oasis in the opening round of the state tournament at noon Saturday at Bettye Wilson Park.
Coronado 4, Desert Oasis 1 — At Bettye Wilson Park, Simone Hottentot scored two goals to lift the top-seeded Cougars to the Class 4A Desert Region title.
Alexis Pashales and Sophia-Frances Chura also scored goals for Coronado (19-1-4), which led 2-0 at halftime. Pashales, Chrysta Vasquez and Kaylee Zicha each had assists for the Cougars.
The third-seeded Diamondbacks (15-4-3) will face Centennial in the first round of the state tournament at noon Saturday at Bettye Wilson Park.
A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Faith Lutheran’s Amelia McManus.