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Sage Creek, Francis Parker grab Division II titles

The Sage Creek girls soccer team shook off a last-minute, game-tying goal by Coronado, battled its opponent through a 15-minute overtime period, then captured a second consecutive section title on penalty kicks (4-2), taking the San Diego Section Division II girls’ championship game at Patrick Henry High on Friday night.

Moments away from a 1-0 defeat, Coronado stayed alive thanks to an unlikely goal scorer when junior Emily Kuite tallied on a hard kick from 12 yards away following a free-kick sequence that saw the ball bounce her way, tying the game with less than one minute left on the referee’s watch.

“The emotions were high when they tied that game so late and it was super intense for the girls but that only allowed them to play at the a higher level,” Sage Creek coach Madison McLean said. “It only fueled them going into overtime because they knew they still had a win in them. They knew that they owned the first and second half. We didn’t hold back when we were ahead, keeping our same formation.”

The goal erased the lead that was provided by Sage Creek junior Malia Leupold, who drilled home a rebound from right in front of the net after an initial point-blank shot was stopped impressively by Coronado goalie Cadence Palmer, who couldn’t secure it.

“It could’ve been easier but it’s never going to be easy in a championship,” Leupold said. “I know we just wanted it so bad. We fought to the end and played with a lot of heart.”

Once in the penalty round, the Bobcats went 4-for-4, including the decisive successful shot from sophomore Camryn Gold, the younger sister of senior captain and defensive star Brooklyn Gold.

Rylie McLaren, who knocked home the Bobcats’ first penalty kick, initiated the run on Sage Creek’s first score, which came at the 60-minute mark, when she dribbled 30 yards in open space to set up her team’s opportunity.

“We were bummed when they scored that goal but it happens,” McLaren said. “We just tried to focus on getting a goal in the overtime if we could but we had to make sure they didn’t score on us, as well. We work together really well because we have been together. We came into the game thinking we were going to be the underdogs but we knew what to expect.”

After Coronado’s Lana Allari-Smith pounded home her team’s first penalty, Bobcat junior Annabelle Allison gave her squad their second successful try to keep the pressure on the Islanders, who ended up missing consecutive kicks.

“I didn’t lose any seniors when we won the Division III title last season, so it was a cool experience to continue to grow as a program to move up to the next level of play. We’re just a community that has stayed tight for two years.”

The Bobcats were the Avocado East champions with a 7-0-1 record and enter the state division playoffs with a record of 12-4-3, having won nine-straight games and have gone unbeaten in their last 11 contests.

Coronado, which was vying for its ninth girls’ section title, finished the season 11-4-6.

Bobcat junior Seren Johnson and the Islanders’ Allari-Smith wwere the CIF Sportsmanship Award winners.

Boys

Francis Parker 1, Carlsbad 0

After being outplayed for much of the contest, Francis Parker earned the game’s only goal in the final minute to defeat Carlsbad.

Parker captain Cesar Hoover, who has scored more than 50 goals in his prep career, finally broke the stalemate after the time was moved to the referee’s watch.

“We won the ball on the right side of the field and (senior) Adrien Marcelli got to put in a long throw, it skips through to the back post, I took it down on my chest and one-touched it in the corner, best feeling I’ve had in my whole life,” Marcelli said of the game-winner.

Carlsbad applied much more pressure offensively than Francis Parker, particularly in the first half.

Carlsbad registered six shots on goal to just one for Parker in the first 40 minutes. Carlsbad continued to lead the attacking phase into the second half, as well, but Francis Parker finally started to muster some runs and shots on goal of their own after the 60 minute mark, eventually out-shooting Carlsbad, 5-4, in the second half.

“Carlsbad is a very good team and lost only one game and that was to the No. 1 team in the county (Torrey Pines),” said Francis Parker head coach Jarrad Phillips, who was a member of the last Parker team to win a boys’ soccer title (back-to-back in 2006-07). “We knew it was going to be difficult, so we just tried to hold our line as best we could and neutralize the advantages that they had and try to ease our way into the game. It took a lot longer than I wanted but we finally got there in the end.”

Francis Parker senior goalie Myles Herr was the man under pressure but he registered six saves, including three reasonable Carlsbad chances in the first half.

Parker, the Coastal League champion, improved to 17-4-1 and will advance to the state regional playoffs. Carlsbad finished 15-2-8.

Scott is a freelance writer.