Joaquin Rivas had only been on his feet for a minute, after being fouled while chasing the ball into the corner, when he found himself in front of the goal on the receiving end of a perfect pass from Ruben Amezcua.
Rivas drilled a hard shot off the fingertips of Douglas goalkeeper Ivan Gonzalez in the final minute of regulation to lead Las Vegas (16-4) to a 1-0 win over Douglas in a Class 4A state semifinal match Friday at Damonte Ranch High School.
“I just got back up and I had to keep on going,” he said.
Rivas’ goal allowed the Wildcats to keep going, as well, keeping alive their efforts to repeat as 4A state champions.
“We’re defending state champions,” Las Vegas coach Vince Hart said. “We’re proud to be that and we’re going to be defending state champions until someone tells us to go home tomorrow.”
That he hadn’t found the net earlier was a source of frustration for Rivas and the Wildcats. Las Vegas controlled the ball in its offensive end for almost the entire second half, with no scores to show for it. Their best chance came in the 53rd minute when a shot by Ivan Chamorro hit the crossbar and bounced back to Rivas, whose header was stopped by Gonzalez.
“I thought we dominated both halves, and I don’t think our goalkeeper made a save, a realistic save,” Hart said. “Obviously their goalkeeper played great; I want to congratulate him. He’s the reason they stayed in the game so long.”
Despite many scoring chances, the Wildcats weren’t able to get many shots on goal, and until Rivas’ tally, the few they mustered were stopped by Gonzalez, who made two spectacular saves.
“Even that one was kind of a hopeful shot, and then the header was just the same,” Hart said.
Hart said the Wildcats had trouble adjusting to the artificial surface at Damonte Ranch.
“We never play on it and we were having trouble with the speed of the ball and the bounces,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been that big a deal, but it was for some reason.”
Hart said he expects a better performance from the Wildcats in today’s title game.
“We’re better than that and hopefully we’ll get a chance to show that tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ve just got to work for it real hard,” he said. “I know everyone on this team wants it.”