Lightning struck twice at Sierra High’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Thursday.
The host Timberwolves wound up prevailing 5-4 in the tiebreaking penalty-kick shootout after drawing with No. 6 Christian Brothers 1-1 through two extra-time periods in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinal.
Both goals were scored in the second overtime, with freshman Emeliano Sanchez chipping in the stunning equalizer for Sierra, which tallied its ninth straight win.
“I just aged five years in two hours,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said.
More like 2 ½ hours.
It was scoreless as the evenly-matched sides slugged it out into the final minute of the first of two 10-minute overtime periods when the officials suspended play because of lightning. Players and coaches spent much of the 30-minute break in action inside the gym, which might have negatively affected No. 3 Sierra (15-6) as it did its best work later in the marathon match.
“Actually, that worked to our advantage,” Pires said. “We were starting to cramp up because we only used one (reserve) while they were subbing in three at a time. We got our legs stretched out in the gym and in a funny way it worked to our advantage.”
Play resumed with only 20 seconds left in the first overtime on the official’s watch, and Christian Brothers (12-9-1) nearly scored in that slim window. Sierra keeper Luis Acosta (five saves) stuffed the point-blank attempt from Dominick Poletti. Acosta was magnificent from start to finish — more on the finish later — as he earlier deflected Richard Dore’s uncontested attempt with a right-legged kick save.
The Falcons finally broke through in the 93rd minute. Zach Martin scooted into the penalty box with a roulette dribble and was fouled. He was rewarded with the penalty kick that he’d convert. Incidentally, it was Martin who missed the opening attempt in the PK shootout, which made the difference.
“We didn’t want it to end here, not at home,” Sierra goalie Luis Acosta said. “We were going to fight until the final whistle. They thought it was over. They thought they won. Guess again.”
Five minutes later, Sanchez delivered the quick strike that forced PKs.
Following a corner kick, Sierra defender Andrew Crawford poked it through a crowd of bodies and found a wide-open Sanchez in front of the 6-yard line. Sanchez guided the ball into the net with a left-footed volley.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but you have to be ready for anything,” he said. “It just came to me and I had the opportunity to score. It feels good knowing you did something to help the team win.”
Sanchez was among the five Sierra players to make their PKs in the shootout. Gerardo Sanchez, Juan Lara and Tristan Gonzalez also converted before Acosta capped it off.
“I’m pretty comfortable in that situation,” Acosta said. “Ever since I was little going to my brother’s practices it’s all I did was shoot, shoot and shoot at the goal.”
Christian Brothers was the better team in the first half, playing with composure and making use of its overall size advantage. Sierra got untracked in the second half and mounted several threatening runs with diagonal through balls. The Timberwolves ended with a 17-13 advantage in shot attempts and managed to finish with more corner kicks, 7-6, despite not having any in the opening half.
“The next one is going to be even tougher,” Pires said, “but winning in this fashion pumps the team up. We played from behind and won in PKs against one of the top teams in the section. Our morale is going to be high.”
The T’wolves head to second-seeded Ceres next Tuesday.