By Ernest Stone
On paper, the eighth-ninth seed matchup in the first round of the CIF-North Coast Section Division III boys soccer playoffs is supposed to be evenly matched.
Yet, during the Bay School’s gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime victory over Bentley School on Wednesday at Kezar Stadium, both teams exhibited efforts that resonate well beyond the stat sheet.
“Throughout this season we have continued to play hard,” said Bay head coach Matt Hannibal. “And it seems that every game we are getting better, this match included.”
At first, it seemed as if Bay (7-7-1) would be unable to contain Bentley’s (6-11-3) pressing attack, yet after a few golden opportunities yielded no results for the Phoenix, Skye Strachan scored on the Breakers’ first shot on goal by in the 11th minute.
That goal shifted the momentum of the game, and after looking overmatched during the beginning stages of the contest, Bay matched Bentley’s frantic pace.
A Tyler Craig goal on a rebound tied the game at 1-1, which would remain the score entering the second half.
The second half began with a strike from Bentley forward Eric Soto in the 42nd minute to give the Phoenix a 2-1 lead.
“Our players exhibited such desire out there,” said Bentley head coach Nicole Moreno. “We had a few underclassmen play well beyond their experience level, and our collective team effort was impeccable.”
Unfortunately for Bentley, such effort would prove to be its downfall, and after a thoroughly entertaining 60 minutes, the Phoenix began to tire.
Taking advantage was junior Connor Matoon, who single-handedly broke open the Bentley defense to equalize the match at 2-2 in the 68th minute.
“It’s funny because our attacks usually begin with an array of passing,” said Hannibal. “So it was amazing to see Connor do it all on his own and score like that.”
Matoon’s goal all but pulled the carpet from beneath the Phoenix. After the dramatic finish in regulation, Bay needed just four minutes to pull out the win in sudden-death overtime.
On a well executed give-and-go play, junior Zev Newman fired a rocketed shot that deflected up and over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
“Definitely the biggest shot of my life,” said Newman. “We are playing so well now, and I’m glad we were finally able to take advantage of the athleticism we have.”
Bay will need every ounce of athleticism when it faces top-seeded Anderson Valley on Saturday.
“I think that the way they came out and gave us a game was a real wake up call,” Hannibal said. “Too bad it had to come now, but I think it’s a good thing.”
Drew 8, South Fork 2
Coming off an upset win against rival Lick-Wilmerding last week, it seemed as if Drew High School had all the confidence it needed heading into the NCS Division III playoffs.
Now, after an 8-2 blowout win over South Fork (5-10-1) in the first round, the Dragons could find themselves contending for a section title.
“We wanted to set the tone early, and I told my guys to come out and dominate the first ten minutes,” said Drew head coach Jeff Ramos. “I think it’s clear we were able to do that.”
As well as Drew (7-11-1) played, it would have been hard for even the most optimistic Dragons fan to imagine that junior Julian Faro-White would complete a hat trick, in just four minutes of game time.
Following a seventh minute goal, Faro-White scored again in the ninth and 11th minutes, and coupled with a goal by teammate James Brandon, the Dragons went far and beyond coach Ramos’s game strategy and entered halftime up 6-1.
“This was unbelievable. Up until today, we had never scored this many goals as a team,” said Faro-White. “We had a great year last year and I’m proud our team has been able to surpass others’ and even our own expectations this season.”
After adding a fourth goal in the second half, Faro-White’s career day was over.
The Dragons will face fourth-seeded Redwood Christian in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“Saturday’s game against Redwood Christian will be tough to say the least,” Ramos said. “But we continue to improve every game, and it’s good we unveiled some of our potential today.”