After winning the NSCIF Division III boys soccer championship last season and returning this year with virtually the same squad, the Williams Yellowjackets had their sights set on another section title, but what they didn’t foresee was the Winters Warriors interfering with their goal.
It has been a rollercoaster season for the ’Jackets, who at times have struggled to put the ball in the net, and that was precisely the case last Saturday as missed opportunities combined with questionable officiating saw the game end in a 1-1 draw and decided through a progression of tiebreakers.
After two scoreless overtime periods the No. 1 seeded Warriors emerged victorious converting four penalty kicks while No. 3 Williams hit two before missing twice and relinquishing their title.
In a contentious game that saw multiple delays due to injuries, raucous crowd behavior, along with three red cards and no less than seven yellow cards, Williams got on the board first in the fifth minute when Gerardo Gomez headed in a perfect pass off the foot of Mauricio Morales giving the ‘Jackets a 1-0 advantage.
Riding the momentum, Williams continued to apply pressure throughout the first half and had three chances to extend its lead.
Yet, the ‘Jackets could not capitalize and in the end that inability to score would come back to haunt them, because in the second period, Winters was awarded the equalizer on a shot that bounced off the crossbar and by the estimation of the side referee crossed the end line.
Unfortunately for Williams however, when they countered with the apparent go ahead goal, the far side referee missed what would have been the game winner, determining that no portion of the ball crossed the goal line and thus sending the game into the tiebreaker.
In the 30 minutes of overtime that ensued, the Jackets had four chances to forge ahead, including another spot kick after hand ball was called against the Warriors in the box, but again Williams was denied the go ahead goal.
Entering the penalty kick phase, Williams seemed to have the advantage because Winters was now without their starting goalie who had been red carded at the end of the second overtime, but it did not play out that way.
After Morales buried the first attempt and Gomez followed hitting his mark as well, the ‘Jackets then missed their next two while the Warriors remained perfect to seal the victory.
It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Yellowjackets (17-7-5) who will lose 10 seniors to graduation, but will return a solid core of experienced players including Morales, Gomez, Emi Navarro and Michael Cervantes.
To get to the final game, Williams upset No. 2 Hamilton City in the second round in a rematch of the 2018 championship with Morales scoring the lone goal in a contest on Feb. 19 that ended 1-0.