The deck seemed stacked against Centennial’s boys Thursday.
Trailing Bishop Gorman 3-1 with 25 minutes left in the match, looking as though they were out of gas, and with their top goal scorer sitting on the bench with his foot in a cast, the Bulldogs pulled ace after ace out of their sleeves.
Chance Rosa scored twice and had an assist in the last 25 minutes, including netting a nearly-impossible winning goal with 90 seconds left, to allow Centennial to stun the Gaels, 4-3 in a Sunset Region semifinal at Arbor View.
Centennial (17-3) will face Legacy (16-1-2) in the region final at 10 a.m. Saturday at Faith Lutheran.
“Some people really stepped up and just continued to work hard,” Centennial coach Tommy Porrello said. “We didn’t know if it would be enough, but we just kept playing through everything.”
The Bulldogs appeared to be on their way out of the tournament after Gorman’s Nick Wesen netted his third goal of the match in the 53rd minute to give the Gaels (17-2-2) a 3-1 lead.
Centennial, which lost leading goal scorer Blake Frischknecht to a broken ankle on Tuesday, finally found the spark it needed three minutes later when Miguel Nieto’s shot deflected to Rosa, who scored on a drive into the lower right corner of the net.
“We all wanted this so badly,” Rosa said. “This team does not run out of heart.”
Rosa set up Jesus Zacarias for the tying goal with 16 minutes left, and then put on a display that left heads shaking and jaws dropping on the winning goal.
After gathering the ball near midfield with time winding down, Rosa beat one Gorman defender, then another as he worked along the left side of the field.
A third defender tried to grab Rosa, but the senior broke free.
“I just did what I had to do,” Rosa said. “I was not going into extra time.”
Two more Gorman players awaited, and Rosa maneuvered around both.
Then he laced a shot into the lower right corner of the net, just out of the reach of Gorman goalkeeper Thomas Olsen.
“He’s a special player,” Porrello said. “When he has the will and he’s going to the goal, he’s extremely difficult to stop.”
Erik Christiansen scored a first-half goal for Centennial.
Legacy 2, Palo Verde 1 — Legacy coach Jose Gomez feared the final whistle was coming.
Saul Aguirre still had a little work to do first, though.
Aguirre scored the winning goal with 15 seconds left in a match that went just beyond the regulation 80 minutes as the defending state champion Longhorns knocked out the Panthers (13-5-1).
“I didn’t know if the whistle was going to blow. We just played until the whistle,” Gomez said. “Once it got to his feet and he made the move, I thought it was going in.”
With less than two minutes left in the match, Palo Verde’s Jose Silva Reyes went down with an injury and had to be helped off the field.
Instead of letting time expire, game officials allowed play to continue, and Aguirre streaked down the field, made one move to beat a defender and chipped the ball past Panthers goalkeeper Josh Dinsmore.
“As soon as I got the ball, I was just trying to find a way to get it into the net,” Aguirre said.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on A.J. Henry’s goal in the 10th minute and held the lead until Aguirre scored the equalizer three minutes into the second half.
Palo Verde was awarded a penalty kick midway through the second half, but Legacy goalkeeper Ramon Carvajal moved to his left to rob Palo Verde’s Alexander Shackley on the shot.
“That was huge,” Gomez said. “He made the right decision. He kept us in the game.”