The top-ranked 2A Pusch Ridge Christian Lions came up one goal short of a state championship, losing 3-2 to third-seeded Phoenix Northwest Christian in the boys state soccer title game.
Still, a second-place finish is a high water mark for the school, nevertheless.
"It's the furthest we've ever gotten," said coach Bob Coate. "Going into the year, I felt like Phoenix Christian would be the best. Their strength of schedule brought down their seed."
When Chad Schafer drilled a pretty shot inside the far post in the fifth minute, it appeared the Lions might be on their way. But they were unable to sustain any momentum, and didn't score again, until after Coate pushed his three forwards up with about 20 minutes to play.
Frank Parker scored with about five minutes remaining to cut the deficit to 3-2, but it wasn't enough. Northwest Christian scored goals in the 19th, 39th, and 71st minutes to win the game.
Coate believes it was the second goal, which put the Lions behind 2-1 at the half, that really did the most damage.
"Right before the half, the ref called a foul on us," Coate said. "Then, they scored on a free kick right before half (one minute left). I didn't agree with the call."
On its third goal, Northwest Christian "had one down in our goal, and the ball was on the line and the ref called it in.
"He (the official) was right on the post," Coate said. "Not one player believed it was over the line."
Coate fully acknowledges this was the best team Pusch Ridge faced all year.
"It was a hard-fought game. They were very similar to our team. They had a fast little guy like our Mitch Woody (the team's speedster)."
The Lions had advanced to the title game by virtue of a convincing 4-0 win over Safford in the semi-final. Woody scored three goals in the win.
"I wouldn't have thought we'd do that with them this time," Coate said.
Woody's first goal came in the first minute.
"That helped out hugely," Coate said.
Going into the final, the Lions had not allowed a goal in the playoffs. Despite the loss, they outscored their four foes by a combined 8-3. Coate called it a very successful season.
"This year, we had six senior starters. That leadership really helped us."
Matt Horrigan was named the most valuable player of the region, and made the first team. Horrigan has a scholarship to Lubbock Christian. Woody and Parker were also named to the first team, while Chad Springetti was a second-team selection.
The #5 Mountain View Mountain Lions girls squad advanced to the state semi-finals in 5A-II play for the second time in three years.
This season came down to penalty kicks, and ended with a 3-2 loss to #9 Desert Mountain last Wednesday at Paradise Valley High School. Senior Megan White scored the first goal. Trailing 2-1 with only about four minutes left, Justene Kesterson nailed a goal to tie the game and force overtime. Neither team scored in overtime, which necessitated the penalty kicks.
Kesterson finished fourth in scoring in Southern Arizona, while teammate Adriana Ortiz was 15th.
The Mountain Lions finished 19-6-1, and were 5-1 in the 5A Southern Region.