After battling to a 1-1 tie in regulation, it came down to a shootout.
Host Delhi was just one shot better than Escalon, defeating the varsity Cougar boys by a 5-4 margin in the shootout on Thursday, Feb. 10 to advance in the playoffs.
The Delhi Hawks went 9-0-5 during the regular season, taking second place in the Southern League. They hosted the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoff game and Escalon – fourth in the Trans-Valley League – put up a fight and, according to head coach Paul Silva, played a better overall game but fell just short.
“They scored their goal right away,” Silva said of the Hawks, who got on the board at the three-minute mark of the contest.
“He (Hawks player) was crossing the ball and it found the top corner of the net,” the coach said.
Discouraged by falling behind so quickly, Silva said his team was able to just as quickly regroup and knotted the score with a tally about seven minutes later, at the 10-minute mark of the game.
“We scored off a throw-in,” Silva explained. “Matthew Baptista throws it in so far; he threw it into the box and Miguel Granados headed it into the goal.”
From there, both teams had scoring opportunities in the first half but were unable to capitalize.
Second half action saw the Cougars take control of the tempo of the game but, again, were stymied by some solid net minding from the Delhi keeper.
“We had chance after chance but their goalie was in position, and credit their defense, too,” Silva said. “This whole season we’ve had a hard time converting our chances.”
The season of missed opportunities continued in to the playoff game as the No. 7 seed Escalon Cougars fell to the No. 2 seed Delhi.
“The guys worked so hard and it was the best we have played all season, they just played so well,” Silva said of his squad. “It’s cruel that the better team didn’t move on.”
In the shootout, Alexiz Rodriguez, Andres Beltran, Matthew Baptista and goalie Aldo Yepiz converted their shots. Delhi was able to score on all five of their penalty kick attempts and took the win.
Escalon ended the campaign at 8-9-5 overall.
“I am proud of the guys for coming together, they played for each other and it was gratifying to see them work together so well in the biggest game of the season,” the coach noted. “Delhi just nailed their PKs.”
Though the team graduates a plethora of seniors, Silva looks to Baptista and Jacen Peoples, both of whom are three-year varsity players and will be seniors next season, to lead the team.
“The JV team did well and they have some talented kids we will bring up to varsity,” Silva said.
Escalon’s varsity Lady Cougars, meanwhile, advanced to the playoffs as well, going as the fourth place team in the TVL. They drew a tough assignment, going up against a Sonora squad that went a perfect 10-0 in the Mother Lode League and took a 7-0 shutout win over the visiting Escalon girls in the Friday night first round Division 4 game to end their season.