It’s going to be the brawl to settle it all in the Central Coast Section Division III boys’ soccer championship matchup between Half Moon Bay and Burlingame.
Having squared off twice in Peninsula Athletic League regular-season play, the teams split their season series. For Half Moon Bay, however, the season has been a tale of two dramatically different halves. The Cougars started by going 3-4 through the first half of the season. They haven’t lost a game since, winning the last seven games of the regular season before dominating through two previous rounds of CCS play, running up a combined score of 7-2 over James Lick and Aptos.
With an output like that, it’s no wonder the Cougars earned the No. 1 seed in Division III bracket.
“I think it’s deserving, but I was a little surprised at first because of when we were 3-4 at the beginning of the season,” Half Moon Bay head coach Jeff Turgeon said. “I was like, ‘Guys, we’re not even going to make the playoffs.’ … But yes, I think we do deserve it.”
According to Turgeon, the team had to hash out some internal jockeying before they could get on a roll this season. But his personnel did work out its in-house issues. And roll they did.
“Once they calmed that down they started to get along better, they communicated, there was no negative stuff on the field, and their mindset was very solid going forward,” Turgeon said.
The Cougars are riding high after a brilliant performance by Zack Penner in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Aptos. The junior forward scored four goals en route to a 5-2 win, including a second-half hat trick to tab a season best for any Half Moon Bay scorer.
“We moved the ball very well from up top to the outside mids,” Turgeon said. “And our defense is pretty solid. The four guys in the back are solid all the time. We haven’t allowed a lot of goals.”
Burlingame has taken the more traditional low-scoring route of advancing to the program’s fifth ever championship appearance. The No. 3-seed Panthers downed Monterey, 1-0, before a thrilling comeback win over Soledad, 2-1 in overtime. They boast the strength and speed to match the Cougars on any given day. And judging by the physical clash with Soledad Wednesday, Burlingame is just as endowed with the jockeying gene as Half Moon Bay.
“It’s going to be very aggressive, very fast-paced, like it was [in our first two games],” Turgeon said. “I’m looking forward to the same thing. It’s going to be a quick, up-paced game — a lot of shooting. I’m sure it’s going to be physical. … I just hope my team stays in control and doesn’t lose their head, and finishes when they have the opportunity. It will be a very good game.”