The Centennial boys soccer win over Liberty on Wednesday came with its fair share of drama.
A 2-1 Golden Hawks victory featured chippy play throughout, both teams playing hard in true rivalry fashion, and a contest that left each coach lamenting the officiating.
In the end, it was Centennial that came out on top, as the Golden Hawks moved to a perfect 5-0-0 in Southwest Yosemite League play while Liberty fell to 2-2.
“It was ugly. But we got the W and that’s what really counts tonight,” said Centennial head coach Jeff Vaughn. “It keeps us going in league. We’re good...Prepare for the next game.”
The intrigue hit a fevered pitch late in the contest when, with under two minutes remaining, a Golden Hawks attackman was taken down in the goal box.
Centennial was destined for a penalty kick following the play, and then Liberty goalkeeper Bradon Nilsson was ticketed with a red card. Liberty coach Jay Gore said Nilsson was carded for using foul language.
Centennial’s Uriel Tapia buried the initial penalty kick past Hunter Riley, but Tapia was whistled for starting early. He would step back up and calmly sink the second try, and in turn recorded the contest’s go-ahead goal.
“The referee made some choices. And that’s fine, I get it. Some of them were laughable,” Gore said. “Like I told the guys, I’ve seen some pretty poorly-refed games, and this ranks up there as one of them in terms of decisions made.
“But here’s another thing I also told my guys: We put ourselves in those positions for him to call. If we put ourselves in those bad positions for him to make the call, then part of that is our blame too. It’s a learning experience.”
Said Vaughn: “The stuff that was and wasn’t called. It was just...baffling.”
Aside from the peripheral circumstances, it was actually an entertaining soccer game between two rivals who are accustomed to squaring off atop the league standings. Centennial won the first meeting between the teams this season, 3-1.
“It was a Liberty-Centennial battle,” Vaughn said of Wednesday’s rematch. “We’re not going to lose, they’re not going to lose, everyone’s going full tilt. It was literally like a playoff game….Both teams played hard. That’s for sure.”
Liberty was in attack-mode early and controlled play for a good portion of the first half.
Centennial, which appeared to be on its heels to start the contest, picked things up prior to intermission, however, and took a 1-0 lead. Off a free kick, Fidler’s shot rang off the goal post, but the rebound was tapped in by Chris Arndt as the Golden Hawks went ahead.
“I was extremely happy,” Gore said when asked about how his team started the contest. “The only unfortunate thing was the goal that kind of stifled a little bit of our momentum. And that’s the thing about goals. They’ll do that to you.”
Liberty would not be outdone, however, as the Patriots came right back at Centennial in the second half. Kobe Franks headed in a ball off a throw-in from the side, and Liberty tied the game with 14:30 remaining in regulation.