By Bonta Hill
Mission High School almost came up with the right recipe to defeat undefeated Lowell in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals, but they missed the one ingredient that would have cooked up the biggest upset of the season — a goal.
Lowell survived a frantic final five minutes of the contest, holding off Mission in a 1-0 win on Wednesday at Boxer Stadium to advance to Saturday’s AAA championship game against Lincoln.
The Cardinals (19-0) clinched their 37th consecutive AAA victory behind a goal from senior midfielder Max Pollard in the 53rd minute. Pollard headed in a corner kick from Avery Fisher.
“The goal helped settle us down and a lot of times corners are contested, so for me to be able to get up there, it was like I better put this one in,” Pollard said.
Lowell’s streak was almost snapped though, as Mission (14-7-3) controlled most of the action throughout, even outshooting the Cardinals 13-5.
But the Bears couldn’t find the net after several near-misses, including five shots in the final five minutes that nearly sent the match into overtime.
Junior forward Marco Caballero’s shot in the 79th minute just went wide right of the net, while Lowell goaltender Eduardo Camacho made two saves in the final moments to help the Cardinals prevail.
Despite the loss, Mission head coach Scott Kennedy held nothing back after the game.
“I really thought we were the better team and I really thought we were going to beat them,”
Kennedy said. “We’ve had so many games like today all season, but when you’re the best program everybody circles you on the calendar. I’m not disappointed with the way we fought today and we can hold our [heads] up with pride. I bet you Lowell is getting out of here happy as hell today . . . Lincoln and Lowell both know they just dodged a bullet. I feel like we’re the best team, simple as that.”
Although Lowell was on its heels for most of the game, the Cardinals’ surge in the first 15 minutes of the second half was the difference.
Moments before he scored, Pollard had another golden scoring opportunity when he sent a shot from 10 yards out off the crossbar.
“[Mission] is an amazing opponent, and they are relentless,” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “This was the toughest game of the season, but I’m happy to keep the streak [going].”