The Pusch Ridge soccer team won its 14th straight game last week, defeating the Valley Christian Trojans 4-1.
The win leaves the 14-2 Lions ranked sixth in the 1A/2A/3A rankings, right behind fifth-ranked Safford, which comes to Oro Valley for the regular-season finale at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28.
Matt Horrigan scored one goal and assisted on two others for the Lions, who outshot the Trojans 12-4.
"We got lucky," Horrigan said. "We can always get better. We got the win. That' s what matters."
The Lions opened the scoring with a goal in the third minute, as Horrigan fed Mitch Woody, who connected.
The Trojans got even in the 17th minute on a goal by Dave McClure. But it was short-lived, as Chad Springetti nailed a kick into the right corner of the net for a 2-1 Lions lead. There were more missed opportunities by the Lions, who controlled the game, and some luck when a Trojan shot hit the post. Then, in the 37th minute, Horrigan scored to give the Lions a comfortable halftime lead, 3-1.
"Getting a two-goal lead is a good buffer," coach Bob Coate said.
Even with that margin, the Lions maintained offensive pressure in the second half.
"We' re more of a second-half team," Coate said.
During the early second-half flurry, Horrigan got a shot on goal. A minute later, Woody had a one-one-one with the goalkeeper before missing. Woody also missed on another shot attempt.
In the 58th minute, Springetti got off a beautiful shot, but it hit the left post and bounced off. He came back with another strong kick, which bent the goalkeeper backwards like a fierce wind blowing, not unlike the breeze that blew continuously throughout the afternoon contest.
The Trojans were unable to penetrate the penalty box until a shot in the 58th minute.
In the 63rd minute, Geoff Pooley scored on an assist from Horrigan for the Lions' final goal.
Later, the action turned physical. After a Lion player appeared to knock down a Trojan, the Trojan retaliated and was carded for unsportsmanlike conduct. A few minutes later, Pooley was injured and let out a painful yell.
"A guy stepped on his ankle," Coate said. "We hope he'll be OK for Safford. It wasn't intentional."
The first time, the Lions played Safford, Pusch Ridge defeated the Bulldogs on penalty kicks.
"Safford was probably the best team we've played this year," Coate said. "They'll give us their best shot when they get here."