Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Serra’s Nick Schnabel lines up his second goal in the Padres’ 2-2 tie with Gilroy in the CCS Division II championship game Saturday.
CAMPBELL — When your school’s soccer team has never won a Central Coast Section title — let alone appeared in a championship game — it doesn’t complain when it has to share a crown.
It’s better than alternative.
The Serra boys’ soccer team, in its first-ever CCS finals appearance, rallied from a 1-0 deficit to force overtime before settling for a 2-2 tie with Gilroy in the Division II championship game at Westmont High School Saturday.
“We’re all pretty excited,” said Serra coach Jeff Panos. “I know it’s a shared title, but to get the title nonetheless is really special. … The kids are going to put a (CCS champion) banner up in the gym. That’s just incredibly special.”
The emotions ran the gamut for both teams. Gilroy controlled the first 60 minutes of the game, having several near misses before finally converting in 56th minute for a 1-0 lead.
The Padres took over the game for the final 20 minutes of regulation and forced overtime on the first of two Nick Schnabel goals.
Schnabel tallied again three minutes into overtime, but the Mustangs tied the score off a deflection in the five minutes later. When the final whistle sounded following the second 10-minute overtime period, many of the players from both sides collapsed to the ground in pure exhaustion.
Not surprising as the temperature pushed 80 degrees.
“After the second overtime, everyone was just exhausted,” Panos said. “I don’t know if we could have played any more quality soccer. I think both teams left it all out on the field.”
If not for the play of the Padres defensive line and goalkeeper Logan Wolf, Gilroy could have easily taken the title by itself. The Mustangs put five shots on goal in the first half, with Wolf making saves on all five. Wolf finished the game with eight saves.
“Logan had a tremendous game. He’s a had a few ups and downs this year, but I think he rises up to the occasion in the big game.”
On a couple other occasions, Gilroy had would-be goals turned away when the Serra defense made last-line-of-defense clearances.
Serra appeared to take a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when midfielder Patrick Philpott chased a ball down at the endline and sent a cross into the middle of the Mustangs’ goalbox, where Gerald Ingemansson volleyed the shot home.
The assistant referee on the right sideline, however, raised his flag to indicate the ball crossed the endline and was out of bounds, negating the goal.
The Padres had another goal in the second half waved off in the 48th minute following a whistle on a free kick. Kyle Wan’s shot from 45 yards out clanged off the crossbar and down to Nick Bucher, who roofed a shot into the net. But the official ruled offside, negating another Serra score.
“We have to take care of what we control and those calls don’t fall into that category,” Panos said. “We didn’t establish our possession game. Missing our attacking midfielder (Michael Neher) hurt us.”
Eight minutes after Serra’s second goal was disallowed, the Mustangs scored the first tally that stood. Gilroy (16-4-5) earned a free kick deep in its own end and 80 yards away from the Serra goal, the Mustangs put together two good touches. The first was Sean Kaufman’s booming kick that sailed into the Padres’ penalty box. Emanuel Cruz ran by two defenders and touched a shot past a charging Wolf to give Gilroy a 1-0 with 24 minutes to play.
“[Gilroy’s] speed to find the seams in our defense, they found it all game,” Panos said. “I as impressed with that.”
It took a change up top for the Padres that ultimately led to the equalizing goal. Schnabel struggled with Gilroy’s tall, lanky center fullback Jordan Juarez. Following the Mustangs’ goal, Panos brought in David Tillack, who matched up well on Juarez.
“[Tillack] does a real good job with the ball at his feet,” Panos said. “We figured that would disrupt play enough to free up Nick. When Nick got out on the wing, he was able to turn with the ball.”
With Schnabel on the wing, he finally came alive, using a tremendous individual effort to knot the score at 1 four minutes from the end of regulation.
Schnabel received a pass on the left wing and went at a pair of Gilroy defenders 20 yards from goal. Schnabel managed to maintain possession while shedding the defenders, found a sliver of space and with his left foot and tucked a shot inside the near left post for the equalizer.
“That finish … was with the left foot, which would be considered his weaker foot,” Panos said.
Three minutes into the first overtime period, Schnabel produced again on a similar effort to put the Padres 17 minutes away from the championship.
“When you have a special player like Nick Schnabel, I couldn’t imagine him playing his last (high school game) without a little bit of his magic (showing up),” Panos said.
But Gilroy found a little late-game magic of its own to forge the tie with two minutes remaining in the opening 10-minute overtime period. Andres Jimenez took a shot from just outside the Serra penalty box which deflected off a defender and spun away from Wolf to tie the game at 2.
Gilroy managed the only shot on goal in the second overtime and when the final 10 minutes finally ticked off the clock, the teams settled for the co-championship.
“I really felt Gilroy played a strong game, had the better of play in the middle of the field,” Panos said. “For them to get the equalizer was deserved.”