MCALLEN — The second-half buzzer sounded and many thought the game was going to need more than regulation to decide a winner, just like it did back in January when Canyon Lake and Gonzales met during the finals of the Apaches-hosted tournament. But the ball hung in the air off a Canyon Lake corner, and though it was difficult to figure out who was the one who did it, the ball made its way into the Apaches net, giving the Hawks the 2-1 victory in the Region IV-4A semifinal game.
And just like that, the season ended for the Gonzales Apaches.
The goal came on a counter after the Apaches couldn’t convert on their offensive side of the pitch.
“When you get chances like that you got to take advantage of it,” Apaches head coach Greg Ramirez said of their multiple shots taken. “You got to be able to score and we just couldn’t put it in the goal when it was necessary. We could have had four or five of them get in the goal and we just didn’t put them in there. There’s nothing you can do about that. We had our opportunities, they didn’t fall in for us. Game.”
One factor that came into play during the second half was the amount of times the head official elected to stop the clock due to possible time wasting. The head official called the game tight, pulling out his yellow card five times, three against Canyon Lake and twice against the Apaches.
“I was really surprised about that,” Ramirez said. “It was a lot of little stuff that I saw, but they have a better view than I do. There’s a lot of times that I thought the clock shouldn’t have been stopped.”
The fifth-year head coach made a point not to blame the officiating, despite the many groans from others on the sideline and the Gonzales crowd.
The Apaches struck first early in the game, a hard shot by Adrian Rodriguez within the first four minutes of the game. Starting out strong was part of Ramirez’s game plan throughout the playoffs.
“We had to score first so we can keep our momentum,” he said. “But the other part of that plan was we had to keep on scoring, not stay on one.”
Indeed, Ramirez knew one goal wasn’t going to be enough, even with how well the defensive side of the field play.
“Defense held its own, defense did a phenomenal job all night long,” he said. “It could last for only so long. We had to score. We had to score. That one score right in the beginning wasn’t going to hold off [Canyon Lake].”
Attack after attack, the Hawks went after the Apaches defense until finally, a curling shot late with 13:24 left in the second half tied the game 1-1. With three minutes left, the Apaches were awarded a throw-in deep in Canyon Lake territory. The throw made its way into the box, but was cleared. With seconds left, the Hawks countered another Apache attack, making their way to the other side of the field. WIth 10 seconds left, the Hawks were awarded a corner kick. As everyone hustled down in the box, the ball was kicked nearly three or four seconds before time expired, then into the net as the buzzer sounded, giving Canyon Lake the 2-1 stunning victory and Gonzales only their second loss of the season.
Gonzales ends their season undefeated district champions and Region IV-4A regional semifinalists with a total record of 22-2-1.
“They’ve come a long way,” Ramirez said of his team. “The thing about it is, when you get a team like this under the gun, under pressure here, they’re going to perform.”
Despite losing seniors like the team’s leading scorer Anthony Veliz, there’s plenty of underclassmen who are not only talented, but have already performed at a high level this season, according to Ramirez.
“I wouldn’t doubt it if we come back to [McAllen] again,” he touted. “That’s going to be our goal. I know what we can do. I know what this team is going to be able to do. So we’re going to start off with that goal. Not only just winning district next year and going almost undefeated.”
“Our goal is going to be to come back to McAllen and hopefully rematch [Canyon Lake],” Ramirez said with a smile.