By Jeremy Balan
International High School’s first Bay Counties League Central loss came at the worst possible time and in the most heartbreaking fashion.
After ending regulation and two overtime periods at a 1-1 tie, Gateway edged the Jaguars 4-3 in penalty kicks in the BCL Central championship game on Thursday at Kezar Stadium.
The winning strike came off the foot of Gateway senior Ricardo Calderon, the fifth and final Gators’ shooter.
The penalty kicks were locked at 3-3, when Calderon hit the ball low to the left side of the net. International goalkeeper Lucas Harrell got a hand on the ball, but the ball trickled just past him and into the net to clinch the victory.
“I wasn’t thinking anything. I was just focused on making that goal,” Calderon said. “It means a lot to us, [after losing to International twice in the regular season]. It means everything.”
While Calderon dealt the knockout blow, it was Gateway junior Fauris Franco who may have had the most impact on the shootout.
After playing the entire game at forward, Franco moved to goalkeeper for the penalty kicks and made a crucial save on International’s fourth shooter, Jose Guarduno and scored a kick of his own to even the shootout at 2-2.
“I just wanted to do what’s best for my team,” Franco said. “We deserve it. We lost to them twice, came into this game as an underdog and never gave up.”
The win gives the Gators their first league title since 2006.
“I was ready to have a heart attack,” said Gateway head coach Joe Killmaier. “It was hard to watch and nerve-wracking, but overall it was such a great game.”
As the elated Gators celebrated, the International sideline was dejected.
“When you go to penalties, it’s pretty much a lottery,” said International head coach Carlos Bover.”We played well, but we just didn’t finish, and in the end you leave everything to luck.”
Still Bover was happy with how his team responded, when Gateway took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Dennis Garcia in the 73rd minute. The Jaguars evened the score just three minutes later when junior Kai Leshne headed in a picture-perfect crossing pass from senior Laurent Hesnard.
“My team is strong mentally and they know what they can do,” Bover said. “I’m not scared when they go behind.
With the win, Gateway gets an automatic bid to the CIF-North Coast Section playoffs that begin next week. International will get an at-large bid as well, and will figure to be a high seed.
“I’d love to see Gateway again,” Bover said. “They’re a great matchup for us and we have a great rivalry with them.”
G: 73rd minute — Dennis Garcia
I: 76th minute — Kai Leshne
I: Claudio Tarchi scores
G: Alejandro Calderon miss
I: Clay Boszies miss
G: Charlie Wilson scores
I: Christian Rosnes scores
G: Fauris Franco scores
I: Jose Garduno miss
G: Austin Miranda scores
I: Leshne scores
G: Ricardo Calderon scores
Slideshow by Devin Chen