When Dave Belfort took over as Highland's boys soccer coach five years ago the program was coming off a state-championship season. They haven't been to the playoffs since. The Hawks, however, are on a late-season run at present that may end that streak.
Highland scored twice in two minutes in the latter half of the second half Monday night to snare a 2-1 win over Dobson to spoil the host Mustangs' Senior Night.
Highland won its sixth power-point match in its last seven after an 0-3 start to improve to 10-7 overall and most importantly move to 6-4 in power-ranking matches. Highland entered the night at No. 12 in Division I with three matches left to play. This one almost got away as Dobson (4-11-2, 3-8) was again on the short end of a one-goal outcome. Seven of Dobson's 11 losses this season have been by one goal.
“This group is young and has a lot of talent, but doesn't always play to its level,” Belfort said. “I told them if they want to do something special they need to keep their focus….
“We had a big win over Gilbert (last Friday). It was the first time this group of seniors had beaten Gilbert. I thought it would give us a ton of energy. Fortunately, we were able to come back and win it.”
Dobson led at halftime 1-0 as senior Marlon Bonilla, the Mustangs' leading scorer, tallied from about 10 yards out in the 37th minute. Highland had the best of the goal chances the first half, but Dobson was the team that converted one.
Dobson also got a couple chances in the early portion of the second half with no luck. Finally — for Highland — the Hawks broke through with goals in the 63rd and 65th minutes.
The tying goal came via a free kick by one of the team's tri-captains, Brody Zaugg. Zaug lofted his shot nicely and it landed softly in the upper farpost corner.
“Just as they were kicking it our keeper (Robert Walls) stepped up a little expecting a charge for a header,” Dobson coach Jason Berg said. “By the time he dropped back it was just out of his reach. It was a nice goal for them.”
The Mustangs were stung two minutes later when Highland's Angelo Effio assisted a left-footed goal by right-footed Noah Miller from about 15 yards out. Miller, also a team captain and kicker for Highland's football team, had taken a long free kick earlier in the game from near midfield.
“That second goal definitely deflated us,” Berg said. “I didn't feel we got a good shot the rest of the game.”
Highland has two matches left. Both are at home vs. Basha on Wednesday Jan. 29 and Thursday Jan. 30 vs. Pinnacle. Dobson closes its season on Wednesday at Westwood.