Hours before the Wilcox Chargers football team claimed the division 3-A state championship on Dec. 15, Wilcox’s other football team took to the Avaya Stadium pitch to play the Santa Clara Bruins in a pre-season matchup that resulted in a 2-2 draw.
Santa Clara junior Zaid Ansari got the Bruins on the board with a 31st-minute goal that gave Santa Clara the edge going into the half.
“I was running to the back post and saw our striker Axel [Grespen] at the opposite post,” he said. “It was going by like a blur. I called for it as loud as I could. I expected it to come on the ground, but I saw it coming in the air and knew what I had to do. I stretched my foot out, closed my eyes — I didn’t even see it on my foot — I felt it and heard the crowd roar behind me. It took me a second to believe it.”
Soon after the half, Wilcox’s Brian Montiel evened the match with his 54th-minute answer to Ansari’s goal.
“I was able to get ahead on that corner so it was really exciting,” said the senior. “It was amazing. It’s like a dream come true [to score at Avaya] so it was emotional.
In the 72nd minute, Wilcox junior Emael Talavera was hit with his second yellow card and Wilcox was forced to play down a man for the remainder of the match.
Early in what would become extended stoppage time, Santa Clara came out swinging when senior Solomon Kendaya put the Bruins up with what was assumed would be the winner.
“It was a good moment,” he said. “We needed it. I was looking for it. It was a good ball from Leo [Garcia] and I had a chance to finish it.”
With a 2-1 lead, both teams thought the final whistle would soon blow, but minutes later Wilcox junior Bryan Meza was afforded a penalty kick for a call in the box. Meza lined up his shot and sent the ball flying past Bruins keeper Victor Garibay to even the score.
“It was very overwhelming,” said Meza. “I was cramped, tired and didn’t know what to expect. I did everything I could. I thank God. He helped me to score this goal and give the tie to my team. I’ve always dreamed of scoring a last minute winner, but even though this wasn’t a win, I still helped my team not to lose.”
Over 14 minutes after regulation time ceased, the refs called the match, leaving Wilcox elated and Santa Clara slightly stunned.
“It was tough — the 14 minutes,” said Bruins Head Coach Dan Sequeira. “I’ve never played a game with that much overage time. I talked to the refs and they said ‘we had a yellow, we had a red, we had injuries’ so it becomes part of the game. Our opinion, as Santa Clara, was that [the call resulting in the penalty kick] was outside of the box and we hopefully, down the season in league, will get a break like that. You have to stay positive.”
“They’re a division above us so anytime we get to play a team that’s above us and we leave with a draw we’re going to be happy,” said Chargers Head Coach Tom Montes. “It’s a cross-town rivalry and they have been better than us for years. We walked off the field knowing we can compete with these guys.”
Both teams will begin conference play in January. The High School Soccer Series, sponsored by Valley Health Plan, gives high school teams the major league treatment, allowing them to play on a professional field with an in-booth announcer and official walk-outs.