Favorites Sandia and La Cueva both took it right to the edge Friday night in the quarterfinals of the boys Class 5A soccer state tournament before getting late goals to advance to face each other on Wednesday in the semifinals.
No. 3 SANDIA 2, No. 6 ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 1, (2 OT): A pinpoint corner kick from Christian Baker and fortuitously placed header from Jordan Atkinson in the ninth minute of the second overtime was the difference for the Matadors (16-3).
“It happened pretty quick and I saw Christian put up his one hand meaning near side and I just jumped up and hoped for the best,” Atkinson said. “The minute I saw it come off his foot, I saw it coming in. I was hoping to hit it to that side but I didn’t think I was going to get it that far to that far side.”
Sandia sent Atkinson and Luke Sanchez in deep with the express purpose of winning a ball in the air, coach Ryan Sanchez said.
“The players in there, the players who were really winning the aerial duels, that was Luke and Jordan,” coach Sanchez said. “Both of them went for the attack and both of them went up in the air and Jordan just came out on top.”
The Bulldogs (15-4-1) got on the board first, scoring in the 20th minute on a goal by Baila Brucker off a feed from Barrett Davis.
But six minutes later, Sandia got the equalizer from Connor Cousins, who finished off a pass from Dylan Rivas.
AHS, which beat Sandia 3-2 to open the season, controlled the opening portion of the second half until the Matadors made a few changes.
“We made a tactical switch,” coach Sanchez said. “We pulled some players out and moved some players in. We changed our lineup and our formation. Once we changed that formation, then everything started falling our way. ”
No. 2 LA CUEVA 3, No. 7 GADSDEN 2: The Bears (17-1-1) blew a 2-0 lead, but then rebounded to get the game-winner shortly before the final whistle.
“It’s just resiliency,” La Cueva coach Easy Jimenez said. “We’ve been down a couple of times this year and we’ve come back in every single game. Just playing with a lot of heart and a lot of want. I tell them I can’t teach that. It comes from them. They don’t want their season to end. They came back real quick and gave the dagger.”
It was Chris Lugones who delivered the final blow, converting a pass from Brandon Morinigo with a header with less than two minutes left in regulation.
“Brandon, he’s a really good player, passed me the ball, and I can see the ball in the goal,” Lugones said. “I thought, ‘It’s now or never, go big or go home.’ So I hit it. Where Brandon was, the goalkeeper followed him. I saw the goalkeeper coming this way and I was like, I might as well put it where he is going to be off balance. And I took my opportunity and I scored.”
Brendan Baird put the Bears on top, putting away a shot from 18 yards out in the 26th minute and blasting a direct kick over the wall from 23 yards out in the 48th minute.
Anthony Sifuentes, who came off the bench for the Panthers (14-5-2), scored both goals, putting one away with a header, then rolling in the equalizer with about eight minutes left in regulation.
“When they came back, we kind of dropped to their level,” Lugones said. “To get up two goals, it really gave us a confidence boost and we got comfortable. They gave us a reality check and so we just got out and scored that last goal and it was great. ”
ALSO FRIDAY: No. 1 seed Santa Fe held off visiting Volcano Vista, the 9 seed, 4-3 on Friday night as the Demons (20-1) will play either Atrisco Heritage or Hobbs in the 5A semifinals on Wednesday. … In the 3A-1A quarterfinals, No. 4 seed Bosque School posted a 2-0 victory over fifth-seeded Oak Grove Classical Academy/Menaul on Friday afternoon.
LA CUEVA 1, CENTENNIAL 0: In the 5A quarterfinals at the APS Complex, Olivia Haddock’s penalty kick goal in the 91st minute sent the third-seeded Bears into the semifinals next week against Volcano Vista or Carlsbad.
There was a foul called in the box against the Hawks’ goalkeeper that led to the game-winning PK.
Cibola-Rio Rancho, a rematch of the metro final, and Las Cruces-Hobbs, are the other two quarterfinals on Saturday along with Volcano Vista travling to meet the defending state champion Cavegirls.
ST. PIUS 5, AZTEC 0: At St. Pius, Class 4A’s top-seeded Sartans pulled away in the second half and cruised into the semifinals Wednesday against Artesia or Los Alamos.
Amber Taibbi, Enmarae Torres, Marisol Valdez, Natasha Montoya and Gabby Jeantete had goals for St. Pius, which led only 1-0 at halftime.
HOPE CHRISTIAN 3, VALENCIA 0: At Hope, 4A’s second-seeded Huskies received two goals from Hannah Gutierrez, both assisted by Ashlyn Salas, and Savanah Sanchez also scored as Hope advanced to the semifinals against Goddard or Albuquerque Academy next Wednesday.
ALSO FRIDAY: No. 3 seed St. Michael’s was the only winner in the 3A-1A quarters on Friday, eliminating East Mountain 4-0.
Journal Staff Writer James Yodice contributed to this story.