By Julian Prime
Photos by Julian Prime
Under the cool desert air of Palm Springs, the boys’ soccer team advanced to CIF-SS semifinals with a 4-2 win over the Rancho Mirage Rattlers. The Tigers were the number one seed going into the game, and were looking to claim their third win of the 2015 playoffs.
Rancho was all business from the very start. The Rattlers immediately opened the game up with a goal off of a corner kick only five minutes into the game. The Tigers answered right back with a rocket shot from senior Ramon Gutierrez, which just missed off the crossbar. The Rattlers wouldn’t give the ball up easily, and dime passes kept possession in Rancho’s favor.
The Rattlers began to turn the ball over, but the Tigers couldn’t do much on offense. Rancho’s strikers were getting antsy, and had two offsides penalties called on them. Despite this, the Rattlers remained in control of the game. The Tigers had a chance when, after a Rancho turnover, Gutierrez took another shot on goal. The shot was blocked by the Rattler goalkeeper, but junior Oskar Hernandez was there for the second chance. Hernandez flew in and booted the ball into the back of the net, and the game was now tied at 1-1.
The Tigers now had momentum. They squandered an opportunity on the corner kick, however, and junior James Anderson was given a yellow card after an aggressive tackle. At this point, another momentum shift occurred, and the Rattlers assumed control of the game again. Rancho had two chances on breakaways, both of which were missed.
The Rattlers were then given a free kick from a little bit beyond half field. After a rocket shot into the box, Rancho scored a goal off of the head of a Rattler. The game was now 2-1 in Rancho Mirage’s favor. The Tigers were down but not out as they tried to tie the game up before halftime. However, nothing was happening for South Pas, and they couldn’t find the net before the whistle blew. Just before the half, a Rattler hit the ground hard and had to be carried off the field. He would not return to the game.
Right out of the gate in the second half, the Tigers had an opportunity to equalize the game on a corner kick. Gutierrez crossed the ball in, where junior James Tulin was there. Tulin sunk his head down low and contacted the ball, sending it just past the outreached arm of Rancho’s goalkeeper and into the net. The Tigers were looking to continue this, when impressive passing and sharp offense set up a South Pas opportunity, but the shot was missed.
The Rattlers were now on the counterattack, but it was brought to a halt by senior Timmy Wong. Rancho wouldn’t be denied there, however, and kept the offensive onslaught on. Senior Sam Hoadley-Brill then came through with two brilliant saves to keep the game tied. In an effort to keep the Rattlers from attacking to goal more, Wong was given a yellow card. Gutierrez missed a shot on a counterattack, but this set the ball in motion for the Tigers’ offense. After a few great chances on the goal, senior Jordan Jackmon got the ball and cut through the Rancho defense, scoring and giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Senior Aydin Pasebani came into the game, but was sent back after a quick yellow card. As the game was winding down, an excruciatingly long period of stoppage time for the Tigers put the South Pas defense under much pressure to not allow a late-game equalizer. On a Tiger counterattack, Gutierrez crossed the ball beautifully into the Rancho box, setting up Jackmon for the final blow, which he headed into the back of the net. The Tigers were elated after clinching their ticket to the semifinals, and the game came to a close with the score at 4-2.
The Tigers will host Sage Hill High School on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. in CIF-SS semifinals.