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Penalty kicks seals Sierra boys fate
Sierra Highs Nate Allen (12) battles for the ball with Pachecos Pablo Ortiz (7) in the Division IV Sac Joaquin IV Section title game. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

ELK GROVE – With 10 minutes left in the second half Saturday, Sierra’s Eriq Kurys curved a long direct kick through the hands of Pacheco of Los Banos goalie Jesus Lopez to tie the game and ultimately force overtime. Lopez rebounded to make two saves on penalty kicks as the second-seeded Panthers took home the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championship with a 1-1 (4-3) win at Elk Grove High.

“It was unbelievable,” Kurys said of his 30-yard goal fropm the wing. “It went right where I wanted it to go.”

“I’m proud of our guys. I wouldn’t want to be on any other team. I’m glad to call these guys my brothers.”

Kurys’ goal was set up when teammate Kevin Mendiola was fouled. Mendiola faked out his defender so badly that when the defender went to kick the ball he missed and got Menciola instead, dropping the Timberwolves junior to the turf.

Sierra coach Joe Pires was proud of his team but was frustrated that the game came down to penalty kicks. 

“We always expect to win,” Timberwolves coach Joe Pires said. “It was a good game but we came up a little bit short. I am proud of the year we had overall.

“It was a good year and when a game comes down to PKs like today did it’s anybody’s game. They got it, we didn’t.”

No. 8 Sierra (17-8-3) took a bumpy road to the championship game, winning just one game out of seven during a bad stretch late in the season.

“We started really strong and then we hit a big valley where we couldn’t win because of different situations,” Pires said. “But then we bounced back to get into the playoffs and we got on a good roll.

“And for us to play one of the top teams in the area like we did today shows what kind of character this team has.”

With neither Sierra or Pacheco (20-2-4) having won a blue banner, history was going to be made on Saturday. For the Panthers, however, there was a bit more on the line as Pacheco had never won a section title in any sport.

That all changed thanks to Lopez, who apparently listened to what Panthers coach Wes Wing had to say after the second overtime. 

“To calm the boys down I told them before we took the shots that this is the stuff Hollywood writes,” Wing said. “It was just amazing.

“It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m sure it will hit me later, but it hasn’t hit me yet.”