Under slightly overcast skies, Petaluma fought the Redwood Peninsula Blitz, in an epic battle, reminiscent of boxing's "Thrilla in Manilla." Fans went to see a soccer game, when a boxing match broke out, as the two silver division teams had several players down on the carpet, getting back up into the fray to answer the count before the final whistle blew.
Thunder storms were forecast in Elk Grove, but lightning struck with a Clash, as the Petaluma United under-15 boys kicked a golden goal to take home the Northern California State President's Cup soccer trophy.
The No. 3-seeded Blitz and the No. 1-bracketed Clash fought to a 1-1 tie in a round-one match, and the title game was no different, as regulation ended, all knotted up at one score apiece.
In the early frame, the two Northern California teams fought to a scoreless tie, until with one minute left in the half, the Blitz struck first with a flurry, ending on a 20-yard power shot, that glanced off the heal of a Clash defender, eluding the grasp of diving goalie Kyle Harmina, who countered to block the kick, but the deflection changed the ball's trajectory into the far right net.
In the first half, the scorecard reflected Redwood beating Petaluma to the punch, and the Clash were on the ropes, limping to their corner to prepare for round two.
The Petaluma boys responded to a challenge from coach Seth Campbell, answering the second half whistle with new life, getting up off the floor to win the second half.
In the 60th minute of the game, Captain Tyler Guptill evened the score, 1-1, dodging five defenders from midfield, off a dime from Ivan Barajas, who came up lame after the dish. Guptil toe poked the ball from the left side with his right foot beyond the reach of the opposing keeper into the far right side of the net.
"That absolutely changed the entire outlook of the contest and gave us a renewed confidence," Campbell said.
The Clash had a chance to knock out the Blitz, with one minute left in regulation. Harrison Koos was driving for the goal, but was held up in the box, setting up a knockout penalty kick, but the Redwood goalie correctly guessed left, and blocked the blow to force overtime.
"We did not want to win the game on peanlty kicks, but on the field," Campbell said.
In the first 15-minute overtime, Petaluma and Redwood both exchanged haymakers, but no one scored a point.
In the second overtime, it looked like penalty kicks would be needed to decide the championship, but with two minutes left, Petaluma forced a defensive mistake, giving it a corner kick in its scoring zone.
To avoid penalty kicks, Petaluma sent three backline defenders into the box to muster one last punch.
Back lineman Jeffrey Lopez took the corner kick with the wind at his back, and laser beamed a shot to the right side of the full box, that deflected off the center defenseman, team captain David Sammon. The ball wound up as if on a silver platter, right in front of defender Erik Fisher, who lofted a perfect left-footed chip shot, curving right to left, upper shelf V inside the right side of the cross bar, just over the keeper's reach, and down into the net for the golden goal.