Apparently Cactus Shadows (Division II) and Highland (Division I) didn't mind being the underdog Tuesday night according to seed in the boys state soccer tournaments.
No. 10 seed Cactus Shadows scored five goals in the second half to defeat No. 7 Tempe High, 6-2, in a D-II first-round match at Chandler High. No. 14 seed Highland followed that by stunning host and No. 3 seed Chandler, 2-1, scoring twice in the final 14 minutes for the win.
Here's how those triumphs came about:
Cactus Shadows settled in to its style of play in the second half to eliminate Tempe. The Falcons led 1-0 at halftime thanks to a header by Bruno Rodriguez off a free kick in the 13th minute. Controlling Tempe's offense after a slow start, the Falcons were called for a hand ball in the box in 42nd minute. Tempe's Jose Fierro converted the penalty kick to tie the match at 1. That ignited a 16-minute stretch of PK's (two by Cactus Shadows and one by Tempe). All were converted and Cactus Shadows held a 3-2 lead after 58 minutes. Fierro scored both PKs for Tempe and Nick Hammer and Ryan Scarpula tallied for Cactus Shadows.
Cactus Shadows scored three times after the PK-deluge to close out the match getting goals from Nick Hammer, Mitch Hammer and Sean Butcher to end Tempe's season.
Tempe's final week of the regular-season was tumultous with four forfeits threatening to knock it from the playoffs and then getting a huge win in its final game against Coronado to make the D-II playoff field.
“We had some chances early in the first half, but we couldn't break them down in that last third,” Tempe coach Steve Cihomsky said. “When they scored to make it 4-2, we hung our heads. … They created opportunities and when they did they put them in the net. They were the better team today.”
Cactus Shadows (12-3-6) advances to Yuma on Saturday Feb. 8 for a quarterfinal match against No. 2 seed San Luis. San Luis eliminated Coconino, 7-0. Taking to the road is nothing new for Cactus Shadows this season. The Falcons did not play a home match at all since their stadium and field is under construction. They even had a time getting to Chandler for Tuesday's match.
“Our bus was late at school and by the time we got here it was 20 minutes to game time and we had 10 minutes to warm up,” Cactus Shadows coach Tony Vos said. “It took us a few minutes to get our legs under us. Once we got past that we knew how to play, and did a good job.”
HIGHLAND 2, CHANDLER 1: Highland shrugged off a goal in the third minute of the match by Chandler's Jairo Castro and by the end of the first half was taking the game to the higher-seeded Wolves.
Chandler coach Sasha Hunter tried at halftime to reverse the trend he saw with plenty of conversation, but Highland was having none of it.
Highland (11-7-2) kept the pressure on at the offensive end and in the 66th minute notched the tying goal on a header by tri-captain Brody Zaugg. Highland continued to press Chandler (14-4) and in the 77th minute, Highland's Tanner Erickson tallied off a throw in a pile of players that brought the upset to fruition.
Highland lost a meeting on Jan. 3 with Chandler, 3-0, giving up three first-half goals in that one. This time the Hawks seemed to gain confidence with every minute of action in winning their first playoff game in five years.
“After the first couple of minutes when we seemed a little tentative maybe intimidated, I thought we outplayed them,” Highland coach Dave Belfort said. “We've been playing better the second half of the season and I felt good about our odds in this one.”
Highland will go on the road again in Saturday's (Feb. 8) quarterfinals. The Hawks will face No. 6 seed Alhambra at Alhambra. Alhambra knocked off No. 11 Camelback, 3-1.