SAN JOSE -- Having already beaten rival Menlo School twice during the regular season, the Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team went for the trifecta in the ultimate match up Saturday afternoon -- in the Central Coast Section Division III championship game at Oak Grove High School.
Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Sacred Heart Prep goalkeeper Hugo Sanchez, left, and Menlo's Jackson Wagner battle for a loose ball in the Gators' penalty box during a 1-1 draw in the CCS Division III championship game Saturday in San Jose.
It appeared the Gators were on their way to not only a third straight win over the Knights this season, but also on pace to win a sixth CCS title when they found the back of the net just before halftime.
But 17 minutes into the second half, Menlo converted a penalty kick and the teams spent the rest of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime looking for a game winner that never came.
As a result, the teams finished in a 1-1 tie and a share of the CCS crown.
"It feels weird to end in a tie," said Menlo coach Marc Kerrest. "But I think it's a fair result."
This is the first CCS boys' soccer title for the Knights and sixth for the Gators, who weren't necessarily thrilled with the result.
"I don't know what to feel," said SHP coach Armando Del Rio. "The guys don't feel like a CCS champion. It may take some time to digest it.
"We have to give credit to Menlo. Beating a team three times (in one season) is tough."
Del Rio said he believes the fact the fifth-seeded Gators were facing 10th-seeded Menlo for the third time may have caused his team to feel a lot of nerves. The Gators beat the Knights 1-0 in the first meeting of the season and recorded another one-goal victory later in the campaign.
Would the third time be the charm for Menlo?
Not quite, but Del Rio felt fortunate to come away with a piece of the title.
"I thought we could have done a lot better. I think [my team] was a little bit tense. They came in with a little bit of tension," Del Rio said. "At the end of the day, we had 100 minutes to change it (the outcome). And at times, we're kind of fortunate to get a co-championship."
Kerrest said his team was determined to change its fortunes against its archrival.
"We haven't beaten then in six years. ... I think they (the Gators) expected to come here and clean us off pretty easily," Kerrest said. "It's a heated rivalry and they had our number during league. But we knew CCS was a second chance for us."
After an evenly played first half, Sacred Heart Prep (18-2-4) scored what can be a back-breaking goal just before halftime, based on pure hustle from striker Andrew Segre. As the ball rolled toward the Menlo end line, Segre sprinted 30 yards and won a 50-50 ball from a Menlo defender. Segre turned, and from a tough angle, sent a shot on frame. Willy Lamb was stationed right in front of the goalmouth and appeared to nod it in, but Del Rio said Lamb told him he didn't touch it, giving Segre the goal.
Those goals right before halftime can have a deflating effect on teams, but Menlo (15-5-4) came out in the second half with even more determination. Seventeen minutes into the second half, Menlo Striker Max Parker made a strong run through the SHP defense. As he got to the top of the Gators' penalty box, the SHP goalkeeper came way off his line to challenge Parker, who was poised to go around the 'keeper but was taken down in the box, earning a penalty kick.
In a twist, Kerrest called on goalkeeper Timmy Costa to take the spot kick. Costa, who was solid all game between the posts for the Knights, calmly slotted his shot into the left corner of the net for the equalizer.
"We've had three different penalty kicks this year and missed all three," Kerrest said. "I have a load of confidence in Tim. Timmy Costa had an amazing game. He's been amazing all year."
The Gators applied a lot of pressure during the rest of regulation, out-shooting the Knights 7-2 in the second half, but could not find the game winner. The Gators best chance at victory in regulation came late off a throw in. Robert Hellman's header was parried away by Costa, but the rebound went right to Daniel Thaure, who hit his follow-up shot wide.
SHP had the best chance in overtime to pull out the victory. After a relatively uneventful first 10-minute overtime period, it was another Hellman header in the second 10-minute overtime period that nearly put the Gators ahead. Off a corner kick, Hellman whipped a header on frame that appeared destined for the left corner.
But Menlo's Jackson Wagner was there to head the ball out of danger off the goal line to preserve the tie and the co-championship.
Which is OK in Kerrest's book.
"We're CCS champs. We're going to look at the glass as half full," Kerrest said. "At the end of the day, we get to put a (CCS championship) banner up (in our gym)."