Eventually Bishop Gorman’s boys have to run out of aces up their sleeves.
Every time the deck appears stacked against the Gaels in the soccer postseason, they come up with another trick.
Thursday was no different.
Down 2-0 with five minutes to play in a Sunset Region semifinal against Centennial at Bettye Wilson Park, the two-time defending state champions didn’t blink.
They scored twice in regulation, including Ramak Roohani’s match-tying goal with three seconds left and won the match, 3-2, on Nic Eary’s goal 13 minutes into overtime.
“They’re just such a resilient bunch,” Gorman coach Nick Arbelaez said. “This team has battled through so much adversity, and we have so much experience.”
The Gaels (16-6-1), who won twice in overtime and came back from a 3-1 deficit in their three regional matches last year, likely should have been eliminated by the Bulldogs (16-2).
Centennial controlled play even after taking a 2-0 lead on headers by Matt Kurtz and Oscar Moran, both off of throw-ins by Kevin Rogge.
The Gaels pulled within 2-1 with four minutes to play when Sean Zaher drove home a pass from Austin Cain.
Rogge missed on a partial breakaway that would have decided the outcome before Gorman came back down the right side of the field.
A cross pass ricocheted to Roohani, who settled the ball, stepped around a defender and scored inside the left post.
“My heart just stopped,” Roohani said. “It felt unreal.”
Playing shorthanded in overtime due to a red card, Gorman still managed to find a way to win.
Roohani crossed a ball from the left side that skimmed the top of Cain’s head and came to Eary on the right side.
Eary, who scored the winning goal in each of the last two state title matches, buried the shot and sent Gorman to Saturday’s regional final against Clark.
“Our leaders stepped up,” Arbelaez said. “Our kids have a lot of heart, and that’s something you can’t teach.”
Centennial had its 16-match winning streak snapped. The Bulldogs lost in overtime to Gorman in last year’s region final.
“We put in a lot of effort, and unfortunately things just didn’t go our way,” Centennial coach Tommy Porrello said.
Clark 2, Palo Verde 0 — Playing on an injured ankle that briefly forced him out of the match, Clark goalkeeper Omar Magana made nine saves to help the Chargers advance.
“He’s just solid,” Clark coach Juan Chavez said. “He’s still battling back from injury. He’s maybe 80 or 90 percent.”
Clark (17-1-2) took a 1-0 lead on Jerson Pinto’s goal with two minutes remaining in the first half.
The Chargers bumped the lead to 2-0 when Victor Solis knocked in Pinto’s corner kick eight minutes into the second half.
Magana took care of the rest, making five of his saves in the second half.
“The kids were really nervous for the first game on Tuesday,” Chavez said. “Once that game was done, they were more ready for this game. We just played the way we did in the regular season.”
Clark won at Gorman, 3-2, and played to a 3-3 tie at home against the Gaels in the regular season.
“A third game, you never know, it could go either way,” Chavez said. “We’re looking back at 2005 when they beat us in the (regional) finals. They’re a good team.
“The kids are motivated to play Gorman and show them this year is our year.”
Palo Verde finished 12-6.