Benefield: Heartbreak for Montgomery boys in soccer title game
We’ve been here before. When the ball hit the back of the net three and a half minutes into the 15-minute golden goal overtime, the whistle sounded and there was jubilation.
But the cheering wasn’t coming from the Montgomery Vikings’ sideline. It was St. Ignatius that erupted and celebrated and chanted. The Vikings, stopped in their tracks wherever they were when that shot went in, slumped to the ground.
The scoreboard read St. Ignatius 3, Montgomery 2. The No. 4 seed Wildcats were crowned the first Division 1 NorCal regional champions. The Vikings, seeded No. 2, were runners-up.
“We brought out a lot but I guess we didn’t break out enough,” Vikings coach Jon Schwan said. “We had a couple critical mistakes and it cost us.”
The Vikings had the advantage on possession but St. Ignatius brought a big, fast squad from San Francisco to the Vikings’ field. The game was aggressive, chippy and fast. But both sides showed signs of being a step off after playing three playoff games in five days.
“I think the combination of you know, three games in five days, playing overtime a couple of nights ago, I think that caught up with us,” Schwan said. “There were definitely some nerves.”
When St. Ignatius took the lead twelve minutes into the game on a header off a cross deep in the right corner, frankly it was stunning. Montgomery’s back line doesn’t give up goals in the air like that.
“We didn’t come out sharp in the beginning,” senior Ben Cawood said. “They got a goal off of a header where we didn’t mark up on the back post.”
But the Vikings had been in this position before. In the semifinal against Burlingame on Thursday, they went down 1-0 in the first 90 seconds of the game. But Saturday night felt different, said senior Jay Schlesinger.
“I think we got nervous,” he said. “When we went down 1-0 it was exactly what happened last game and last game I remember us not worrying at all about going down 1-0; we were already attacking a bunch, we knew it was coming, we knew we were going to score. Today it just felt a little different.”
The stage was bigger. This was the first-ever NorCal regional soccer final. It was the trifecta of what the Vikings wanted. They had run up a 23-3-1 record en route to a North Bay League title and a North Coast Section Division 2 title. All that was left was the first regional title.
“I’m proud of what we have put together, what we have put out there,” Schwan said. “It’s hard to win three titles in one year and that’s what we were playing for. We won our league we won our section and we came a couple minutes short of winning our region.”
They had their chances.
Halfway through the first half, junior Calvin Perkins was fouled in the box and the Vikings were awarded a penalty kick. Senior Carson Wyatt missed wide left.
With 15 minutes to play in the first half, junior Alan Soto sent a free kick into the box. It bounced around in the air like a bingo ball in a scrum so intense the goal moved from the goal line. But the ball didn’t go in.