For nearly 74 minutes Tuesday, Scottsdale Christian did not look like a 16th seed in the Division III boys soccer state tournament. No. 1 Seton Catholic dominated possession and outshot its first-round opponent, yet the scoreboard showed the teams were even at 1-1.
That is, until Seton's Zach Plichta got off a hard shot in the box that Eagles goalkeeper Conner Johnson stopped, and the rebound went in the direction of another Zach: Zach Blomberg. His deflection with less than seven minutes left in the match proved the game-winner in Seton's 2-1 victory.
"It was a great shot, I thought it was going to go in, the keeper made a great save," Blomberg said of the "other" Zach's blast. "I came on to it and it just fell on my foot. It fell right down on my foot and it went in."
With the win, the Sentinels (13-1) advance to Saturday's quarterfinals against No. 9 Fountain Hills (9-4) at 2 p.m. Seton will host the Falcons, which eliminated Phoenix Christian, 1-0, on Tuesday night.
The Sentinels appeared to have trouble finding their spark on Tuesday despite controlling the game with their methodical ball possession game plan. In fact, Scottsdale Christian (8-6) needed less than four minutes to make its statement when a defensive lapse left freshman Zach Swain in front of the goal and he put it past Seton goalkeeper Scott Dearing.
Dearing stopped the Eagles' other eight shots on the night and the defense turned away the other chances. Scottsdale Christian had a hard time getting the ball into the Sentinel half of the field, were whistled six times for off-sides and could have been called back on three other occasions.
"It's a little bit of a wake-up call," Blomberg said. "I mean when you get to the top 16 teams, they are all about even. It's mostly about confidence, confidence under our belt."
For Scottsdale Christian, it was a night of experience, and with each passing minute the Eagles appeared to gain momentum.
"We played well, we just had a couple of misfortunes," Eagles coach Craig Klauka said. "We had a solid defense, defense wins games. Our guys came through in the clutch. We just had a misfortunate goal there at the end."
Between Johnson and Zach Scott, who played most of the game in goal after Johnson came out in the 31st minute, the Eagles turned away 12 Sentinels shots. Twins Josh and Jordan Dunn keyed the Eagles' attack and Jacob Drenth kept pushing from the wing. But Dearing hasn't given up a goal in a few weeks.
In fact, Seton had six straight shutouts in power point games before losing to Division II Tempe, 4-2, in the regular season finale last week.
That defense had its moments on Tuesday after giving up the early goal.
The offensive attack was there, with Blomberg and Plichta up top and Nam Tran rotating in. Tran has developed a powerful flip throw-in that was used to perfection during the first Sentinel goal.
Tran flipped, throwing the ball on a line to Blomberg, who flicked it off his head to Plichta, who knocked it in at close range in the 29th minute to tie the game at 1. Blomberg and Plichta both had near misses throughout the game after getting behind the Eagle defense.
Pablo Castellanos also had chances, missing just left on a free kick in the 68th minute and then getting the ball to Tran, who put the ball on net only to have Scott knock it away.
Tran nearly had a breakaway four minutes later but couldn't quite get his foot on the ball and hit Scott instead, forcing Scottsdale Christian to go back to Johnson in goal for a few minutes.