Titans rally late, top Saints to advance to Elite Eight
A pair of late goals from junior striker Josh Fulk and senior midfielder Luis Galaviz propelled the No. 8 Coal Ridge Titans’ boys soccer team to a big 3-2 come-from-behind win Saturday over the No. 24 Jefferson Saints in the second of the 3A soccer state playoffs at ‘The Pasture’ in New Castle.
Trailing 2-1 late in the second half following a beautiful header from Jefferson’s Isaac Quinones, who slotted home the ball just under the cross bar to give the Saints the lead, the Titans turned up the pressure and really took over down the stretch before Fulk found himself racing in on the Jefferson goal keeper all alone thanks to a terrific through ball from Galaviz. The junior didn’t miss, placing his shot perfectly inside the left goal post past the diving keeper to knot the game up at 2-2 with 13:13 left in the second half.
With the score tied at 2-2, Coal Ridge continued to attack relentlessly, searching for the go-ahead goal, but the Jefferson keeper continued to come up with big save after big save, including a huge stop on Fulk from the side of the net late in the half.
But all of the attacking from the Titans proved to ultimately be too much for the Saints as Galaviz was able to cash in on a terrific cross from junior Ezequiel Vasquez, besting the Jefferson keeper low to his left, just inside the right goal post, giving the Titans the 3-2 lead with 2:05 left in the second half.
When the Titans needed it most, their best offensive players stepped up in big spots to propel Coal Ridge to the win. Despite the win, things seemed bleak midway through the second half when the Saints took the lead, but all credit to the Titans, who didn’t quit and fought back to keep their season alive.
“I’m worried as soon as that whistle blows to start every game,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Michael Mikalakis said. “But I know, and I have faith in my kids one hundred percent. I know the talent level that they have. With the pride that they have in being part of this program and the heart that they have, I knew that they were at least going to put a good attempt together to try and come back.”
While Fulk and Galaviz will steal the headlines for their late-game heroics, it would be remiss to overlook the back line of defense for Coal Ridge, led by Jonathan Espinoza, Fernando Teta and Leonardo Serrano, which kept the Titans composed following the second-half goal from Jefferson while also starting counter attacks, allowing the Titans to get back on the board.
But when it is all said and done, Fulk and Galaviz played the role of hero, and rightfully so considering how much the duo has meant to the Titans all year.
“It’s what you need from two of your best players in this kind of level for where we’re at,” Mikalakis said. “I think seeds and wins and losses go through the window when you start going and playing in playoff soccer, so you need those veteran kids who have been in those high pressure situations before to stand up and make sure they’re the ones to get the opportunities and make the plays.”
Junior Marcus Amaya got the Titans on the board in the first half on a terrific run down the left sideline following a great throw-in from senior Carlos Ponce. Receiving the throw-in, Amaya was able to beat two defenders before cutting back in towards the middle, firing a sliding shot past the diving Jefferson keeper to tie the game at 1-1.
With the win, Coal Ridge advances to the Elite Eight of the 3A state soccer playoff bracket, where they’ll take on the No. 1 seed Kent Denver Sun Devils.
“We just have to have a good week of practice this week,” Espinoza said. “They’re going to be tough, considering they’re the one seed, but knowing what we can do, I think if we have a good week of practice and show up ready to play, we can pull off the upset.”
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.