Despite being a No. 2 seed coming into the 5A-II Boys Soccer State Tournament, being No. 2 in power points most the season, Ironwood felt it was slighted.
“I think all season we’ve been overlooked,” said Ironwood Coach Tim Beck. “Taking nothing away from Goldwater, they’ve made a great run and should be celebrated for it, but no one has been talking about us and I think my players took it to heart. At the end of the day we’re holding the trophy.”
The Valley will talk about Ironwood soccer now that it has the 5A-II state title in its hands after a 2-0 win against No. 16 Phoenix Goldwater Saturday at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.
It’s the Eagles (10-2) sixth boys soccer championship since 1993. They won in 1993 (4A), 1994 (4A), 2000, 2001 and 2006, matching Glendale Cactus as the only school to win six state titles. It’s Beck’s fourth state win, but matching the Cobras mark carries special meaning for him.
“To win a state championship a lot of things need to come together –talent, skill, a little bit of luck, a little fortune,” Beck said. “Winning a sixth state title in Arizona has been done once before and that was done by my alma mater – Cactus – so that’s pretty special.”
The win ended a surprising run by Goldwater (7-5), which became the first 16-seed to move past the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs knocked off No. 1 Millennium, No. 9 Camelback and No. 4 Perry before having their Cinderella season halted by the Eagles.
While emotion may have played a factor for Goldwater, coach Casio Saverino said late season adjustments had more to do with his team’s surge.
“The skill was there for us more than the mental part of it,” Saverino said. “We strung together some wins and started playing well together as a team. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of guys.”
It was a back-and-forth match until Ironwood forward Corey Christ found senior Shye Ozalvo on a throw in deep in the Goldwater zone. Ozalvo fought for position in front of the net and headed the ball through traffic for the game’s first goal.
“I was just looking to get up on a header and get it into the back of the net,” Ozalvo said. “I just worked for position and Corey found me threw me a nice ball and I flicked it in. From there we though the game was ours.”
Then, with 7:51 remaining in the game, Michael Gallardo took a pass from senior Yednek Moges and broke away from a Goldwater defender and shot for the opposite corner. Goal keeper David Law got a hand on the attempt but the ball slipped by, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
“It was a good clearance and I knew we had to get it out and I was the only one out there,” Gallardo said. “It came down to me and other guy. I beat him and I just tried to put it in the corner. That put them away and we knew they couldn’t get back in. We knew the game was ours after that.”
“We put in our chances when we had them,” beck said. “They had some chances from long range but couldn’t get them in. We have a team of 20 great players and once we settled down and moved the ball around we created more than enough chances and we deserved what we got.”
The drama playing out on the field was nearly matched by that on the sidelines.
After criticizing the officiating unit for missed calls, the head referee stopped play at the 4:57 mark and issued a red card to Beck after conferring with the fourth official. Security escorted him off the field for the remainder of the half.
During halftime, the referee discussed the ejection and said he realized he should have issued a yellow card to Beck first. He blamed miscommunication between himself and the fourth official. Beck returned to the Ironwood sidelines for the second half.
“They were man enough to correct their mistake because we weren’t really doing much except telling them ‘hey, let’s protect the players,’” Beck said. “Nothing was said. I questioned one call and the fourth official called (the referee) over and said I needed to leave.”
Beck asked why he was being ejected because he didn’t yell or curse at the head referee.
“He thought he had already cautioned me which he hadn’t,” Beck said. “I’m glad they corrected it but it shouldn’t overshadow from the boys’ performance.”
The Bulldogs were also forced to play a man down for the final 13:04 when Jesus Ramos threw a punch at Ozalvo as the two battled for the dribble on the far sideline. The two player’s feet got tangled up and Ozalvo grabbed Ramos’s shirt. That’s when he turned and swung at the Eagle senior. A brief scrum erupted before the referees quickly restored order and Ramos was ejected.
“I was going in hard and I guess the kid didn’t like how I played the game and kind of gave me a cheap shot,” Ozalvo said. “I’ll be honest, he was lucky the ref grabbed me. He skimmed my face a little bit then got me in the chest but I didn’t feel it.”
These teams met Jan. 4 with Ironwood winning 4-1, so some familiarity was there and that gave the Ironwood players some added confidence.
“It was a tough battle,” Ozalvo said. “Barry Goldwater came out hard. They were the 16-seed and knew they were the underdogs. They knew we had a little more skill and they tried to rough it up. But we knew if we played our game they couldn’t hang with us.”
While Ozalvo said the win gave him and “awesome feeling, pure ecstasy,” it left underclassman, like Gallardo, thirsting for more.
“This is a way better feeling than even winning (the semifinals),” Gallardo said. “I am so proud of my whole team and I’m looking forward to getting more (titles) with these guys. I love this feeling so I want more.”