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Class 5A boys soccer: Unbeaten, No. 1 Albuquerque High wins OT thriller

Albuquerque High players celebrate after scoring in overtime Wednesday to beat La Cueva and advance to Thursday’s Class 5A semifinals. ( Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Talk about a crazy couple of hours of soccer.

Albuquerque High, the state’s No. 1-ranked boys soccer team, advanced with unexpected overtime dramatics. The defending state champions from Cleveland advanced by an even thinner margin than AHS, and needed two fields in the process.

At one point on this damp, cold day at the complex on the Santa Ana Pueblo, all four Class 5A quarterfinal games were tied late in regulation.

When it was all sorted out, the Bulldogs and Storm comprised one half of the semifinals. Those two were joined Wednesday afternoon by upset quarterfinal winners Rio Rancho and Hobbs.

Both semis are 3 p.m. Thursday. The Rams and Eagles square off in one, AHS and Cleveland in the other.

No. 1 ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 4, No. 8 LA CUEVA 3 (OT): What a remarkable match this proved to be.

The Bulldogs (19-0) looked every bit the top seed, and the No. 7-ranked team in the country by USA Today, in a dominant first half that saw them lead 3-0 on goals from Jared Moyers, Dylan Castillo and Christian Nava.

Then the Bears (13-6-1) staged a furious rally with three unanswered goals by Roland Zhang, Yeremi Rodriguez and Tim Wang before playing a man down midway through the second half after a double yellow/red.

Sophomore Stephen Romero of AHS eventually smashed home a shot following a corner kick from teammate Andres Robles in the 90th minute. The ball seemed to skip over the leg of a La Cueva player trying to clear, and found its way to Romero’s feet.

The shot deflected in off Bears goalkeeper Evan Moedl.

“We’re excited,” Romero said, “but we know we should have done better.”

Not long after La Cueva went down a man, the Bears and coach Easy Jimenez packed it in, with five in the back and four midfielders, hoping to reduce AHS’ offensive spacing.

“Let’s get to PKs,” Jimenez said. “That’s what we were hoping for.”

When the second half began, La Cueva, as it did in the first round against Las Cruces when it fell down 2-0 after the first half, switched formations. The Bears brought up a third forward, and capitalized on the advantage at that end with two quick goals to cut the deficit to 3-2.

No. 4 CLEVELAND 1, No. 5 GADSDEN 1 (Storm win PKs 4-3): It was Storm junior goalkeeper Andreas Chacon’s penalty kick-save that probably was the difference.

Except this save occurred in the second half. Had he not made that stop, there would never have been a later shootout after the teams were tied 1-1 through regulation and the two OTs.

“We wouldn’t even be talking right now,” Cleveland coach Shaun Gill said. “He got us there.”

Gadsden had two left-footed kickers hit the crossbar in the PKs, one in the first round, one in the fifth round. Cleveland converted all four of its tries.

Now Cleveland plays AHS again. The Bulldogs waxed the Storm 4-1 in the metro tournament two months ago.

“I feel like last time we played them, we weren’t at our top level,” Chacon said. “It has increasingly gone up.”

This game had to be moved to a field with lights after the first 10-minute overtime.

No. 6 HOBBS 3, No. 3 ATRISCO HERITAGE 2: Senior back Fabian Calderon had the game-tying — and game-winning — goal for the Eagles (16-5-1) in the second half as Hobbs upset the Jaguars (16-2-1), which suffered their first loss since Aug. 28 to Cleveland at the metro tournament.

The go-ahead goal glanced off the left goalpost and spun over the line.

“That’s his job, all the left part of the field,” Hobbs coach Jose Mares said. “From the back to the top, and today it paid off.”

Calderon smiled as he said he didn’t really get to witness his game-winner from about 12 yards out.

“I hit it, but I didn’t look at the goal,” he said. “I just heard the sound (of the crowd cheering).”

Calderon had one goal all season prior to Wednesday.

Hobbs and Rio Rancho did not play each other in the regular season.

No. 7 RIO RANCHO 2, No. 2 MAYFIELD 1: The Rams (15-7) collected a late goal in regulation to eliminate the Trojans (19-2), who had won 18 straight after a loss to Cleveland on Aug. 24.

Braulio Cabrera’s direct kick goal from about 25 yards out in the 77th minute broke a 1-1 deadlock and sent Rio Rancho into the semis.

“He’s got incredible foot skills,” said Rams coach John Shepard. “We have a lot of confidence in him.”

Cabrera had scored a similar goal earlier this season against Los Alamos.

“We love him taking those,” said Shepard.

The Rams advanced in PKs in the first round against Eldorado, and are a win away from reaching the first championship game in program history.

“I’m very, very proud of our guys,” Shepard said. “There’s a lot of parity in boys soccer, so much quality (among) the top 12-15 teams.”

Mayfield lost in the state final last November to Cleveland.

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