Tommy Ramos lost his cool, and then a defensive assignment which put Pinnacle in peril, but talent and Lady Luck came through in the clutch.
The scene was unfamiliar for the Pioneers boys soccer team: A lost lead, but the No. 2 seed held on and won a second 5A Division II state championship in three years with a 3-2 overtime victory against No. 4 Phoenix Carl Hayden on Saturday at Campo Verde High School.
It was the second consecutive extra-session affair on the day, and, similar to the 5A-II girls matchup, left little doubt these two teams earned a spot in the title match.
Pinnacle held a 2-0 lead when goalie Bryce Wawrzyniak — in his first season playing soccer — made a penalty kick save early in the second half, and all seemed to be going smoothly.
But as they had done in the semifinals, Carl Hayden turned a two-goal deficit into a tie game in a five-minute span of the second half. The first of which was aided by Ramos getting a yellow card for physical play. The second of which he was late on a defensive assignment and Hayden’s Ruben Jimenez found the right corner with 32 minutes left in regulation.
“It felt like there were 14 of them,” Ramos said of Carl Hayden’s pressure and possession abilities.
The Falcons continued to dominate possession in the second half while the high-powered Pinnacle offense was stuck in neutral, but the Pioneers defended well enough to force overtime.
“You found out a little about our character,” Pinnacle coach Brock Heykoop said.
With play becoming more heated and physical (three yellow cards were issued after halftime) and with fatigue setting in, the teams traded scoring chances in the first overtime but drew a stalemate.
The second overtime provided Ramos’ redemption. Three minutes in, Ramos got the ball 25 yards out on the side. With the ball two feet in the air, he nailed it with a sideways motion and it found the far corner just inside the goal line.
“It was a lucky shot, but I’ll take it any day,” he said.
Alex Zemezonak and Brennan Redd scored for Pinnacle in the first half, as Carl Hayden — whom Ramos called “easily the best team we’ve played all season” — had trouble keeping up with the Pioneers’ forwards of Ramos, George Malki (one assist) and Zemezonak for the first 40 minutes.
The Falcons, however, refused to fold, but neither did Ramos.
“He’s been a great leader because he doesn’t finish until the end of the last whistle,” Heykoop said. “That’s been the heartbeat of this team.”