Francisco Garcia and Joseph Mayorca came up clutch for Weston Ranch during Wednesday’s Valley Oak League finale at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
The freshman-sophomore tandem both scored go-ahead goals during the final six minutes of regulation and helped Weston Ranch escape with a 4-4 tie against Sierra.
The tie felt more like a victory for the Cougars (7-4-3 VOL, 15-5-4 overall), who sealed up a third-place finish and clinched a Sac-Joaquin Section postseason berth for a first time ever.
“I’m proud of them because they made history,” Weston Ranch head coach Francisco Cisneros said. “We’ve never made the playoffs in the school’s 10 or 11 years.”
The tie for Sierra (6-4-4, 10-7-5) felt more like a gut-wrenching loss, on the other hand, as the Timberwolves settled for fourth and were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the season.
“We played hard and left it all out on the field,” Sierra head coach Joe Pires said. “You got to give credit to Weston Ranch. They have a lot of speed and they took advantage of their opportunities. A tie was obviously no good for us, so we pushed numbers up and their counters hurt us.
“We had 12 seniors. They were looking for an opportunity to at least go to the playoffs…so on Senior Night, it’s very disappointing.”
Sierra played like it knew it needed a victory to extend its season.
The T’Wolves took a 2-1 lead in the 45th minute after standout Bryan Ramos nailed a cross that was blocked by Weston Ranch goalie Jose Avila. The Cougars’ sophomore Alex Gonzalez, who was later red carded and now has to sit the first round of the playoffs, knocked in Sierra’s own-goal that gave the T’Wolves their second lead of the contest.
Mayorca, who finished with two goals and an assist, tied the contest 10 minutes later with a shot in front of the net that was stuck past Sierra keeper Manny Garcia.
The contest stood knotted at 2-2 until minute No. 74.
Mayorca launched a 40-yard pass across the pitch to a streaking Francisco Garcia. Garcia controlled the ball in stride and drove toward the Sierra keeper. The Weston Ranch forward didn’t shoot the shot on the initial drive, instead pulling it back out before firing for the 3-2 advantage.
“God had to give me the power to make that pass,” Mayorca said. “I heard (Garcia’s) voice, and at the corner of my eye I seen him and just sent the ball. A lot of the (Sierra) defenders are fast, but I chipped it over one and (Garcia) outran everybody.”
Sierra didn’t call it quits. Ramos scored in the 76th minute to tie the game at 3s. Ramos headed in the goal off an assist from Jesus Coronado.
The T’Wolves then needed one more score and had a little over five minutes to do so.
Sierra pulled its goalkeeper out of the net and Mayorca made the T’Wolves pay. He broke loose on a fast break to score and make it 4-3 on an empty-netter in stoppage time.
Sierra kept up its urgency and made it 4-4 with a goal from Abdullah Aslami, which was assisted by Sergio Mandiela during stoppage time as well.
“That was the longest game I’ve coached in for sure,” Cisneros concluded. “(Sierra) just kept coming back and coming back. It was a great game. Both teams came to win today.
“You got to give credit to Sierra for being down with such little time and to go and continue to battle till the last second -- nothing but respect for them. We tied, but luckily that helped us.”
Weston Ranch’s Hector Maldonado, who scored the Cougars’ first goal of the game that tied it 1-1 off an assist from Will Giron, was also handed a red card and will be forced to sit for the first round of the playoffs, which are slated to start on Tuesday.
Sierra’s first goal was scored during the 27th minute by Cesar Martinez, which was assisted by the senior forward Ramos.
Sierra 2, Weston Ranch 0
Zinri Rico and Erig Kurys scored for the Timberwolves (11-1-2), who claimed a VOL co-championship with East Union.