The strongest sign yet that something special surrounds Highland's boys soccer team came Wednesday night.
The Scots, down two goals to league rival Foothill, scored three times in the final 22 minutes to stun the Trojans on their home field, 3-2, and win a battle of Southeast Yosemite League unbeatens.
All of that scoring came after Foothill striker Cesar Robles was red- carded after throwing a punch early in the second half.
"That red card always changes momentum," Highland coach Danny Kinder said. "That changes their philosophy and makes them do things differently with a man down. After that, we thought it was just a matter of time."
Sure enough, Johnathan Ochoa ripped a shot from 20 yards out into the upper corner of the net to halve Foothill's lead, then added a penalty kick five minutes later to tie the game.
"Usually, it's my intention to look up before I shoot, but that one was just a gut feel," he said of the first goal. "Sometimes it works out. And then penalties are always hard, but you've got to get it done."
Foothill (8-6-3, 4-1 SEYL) played strong defense to remain even until the final minutes, but Highland (16-3-1, 5-0) had one more moment of magic left. Anthony Ulloa scored on a half-volley in traffic after a nice cross from Sam Blackhurst with three minutes left before stoppage time.
"It feels great," Ochoa said. "Since my freshman year we've had bad seasons every year, but we've gotten a lot more serious. We knew this was going to be a good year."
In Kinder's first year as coach, the Scots are halfway to an undefeated league season.
"Our expectations have gone up with every game we play," he said. "We know every game is big now because suddenly everyone is gunning for us."
Foothill will look forward to a rematch at Highland to end the regular season on Feb. 8. The Trojans can point to the first half as evidence they can compete with the Scots.
They opened the scoring with a penalty kick from Alejandro Iniguez after Highland committed a handball in the box in the 25th minute. Six minutes later, Carlos Barrera headed home a cross from Jose Sanchez to make it 2-0.
"I thought the first half was pretty even, and we just finished our chances better than they did," Foothill coahc Steve Landerdahl said. "But in the second half, we really got outplayed after the ejection.
"When one of your top forwards is ejected, and rightfully so, it leaves too big of a hole. You have to chase everybody instead of playing aggressive. That's when they got more opportunities, and give credit to Highland. They capitalized."
That's what the Scots have done all season long. Now, as Ochoa said, their eyes are on a league title and a long playoff run in the Central Section's Division III.
"We have a lot of go-to guys," Kinder said. "Now we just need to be able to turn it on all the time. That's what separates the good teams from the great teams."