A roller-coaster season continued Wednesday night for Perry's boys soccer team. The result likely will keep the amusement-park ride going with a postseason berth.
Led by the gutsy play of Cameron Harris and solid goalkeeping of Tim Parra, Perry broke through for two goals in the second half to defeat Red Mountain, 2-0, in a critical Division I match at Red Mountain.
Perrry entered play at No. 17 in Wednesday's D-I power rankings while Red Mountain rested at 16. The top 16 teams qualify for state which begins next Tuesday (Feb. 4). Perry boosted its record to 11-7-2 overall and 7-5 in power-ranking matches. It was the final game of the regular season for Perry and the Pumas won their final four matches to stay in the playoff hunt. Prior to that win streak, Perry had dropped four of five matches. Red Mountain dropped to 5-11-1, 5-5-1 prm. Red Mountain has one more match Thursday (Jan.30) at Cibola.
Harris, a junior midfielder-defender, showed plenty of mettle given what he's been through this season. Harris suffered a concussion in the season-opeining loss to Hamilton and missed five weeks recovering. He didn't return to action until January and has since worn a protective helmet that gives him the look of a combat-ready World War I or II pilot. So what happens Wednesday?
Midway through the first half, Harris took a hard deflection off the left side of his face that stunned him and sent him to the ground. He was checked for concussion symptoms, passed and iced the side of his face for a few minutes. He was back in action before the first half concluded. And in the second half, he scored the game's first goal to pave the way to the win.
Harris' goal was a header off a corner kick in the 52nd minute. Perry's defense and a couple of chances that Red Mountain failed to finish kept the lead at 1-0. Red Mountain moved up a defender in the final 10 minutes and Perry capitalized. Tristan Cooper gained quick possession just inside midfield and fed Iasiah Lidell for the insurance tally in the 73rd minute.
Parra, one of the team's most improved players according to first-year coach John Roberts, was outstanding in goal. He collected 11 saves. On a Red Mountain shot with about four minutes left, defender Mitch Albrecht chimed in, likely saving a goal by clearing a shot Parra wouldn't have stopped. Then with less than three minutes to play, Perry fouled Red Mountain in the box. Red Mountain's Justin Cheung took the penalty kick, but Parra smothered it, kept the shutout intact and closed out the Mountain Lions with the stop.
“I thought we both made the same adjsutment at halftime,” Red Mountain first-year coach Mike Miller said. “We were both a little conservative the first half and let it go a little more the second half. We just couldn't finish tonight. Even the PK, we couldn't finish.”
Both teams knew the importance of the match. After the first half, Red Mountain seemed to get the better of the action. It outshot Perry, 12-6. The match was tied 0-0 at intermission, but Roberts wasn't going to let his team slide just because the score was even.
“I was on them, but telling them what they already knew,” Roberts said. “It's been a roller-coaster year. We've had a lot of injuries. With three seniors and how we've done overall, this is a confidence boost for us We will all be power-point watchers the next couple days.”