After 80 minutes of regulation, two 15-minute overtime periods and a lengthy penalty-kick shootout, Rancho keeper Dylan Morgan finally relaxed.
“It’s all about your mind,” Morgan said, panting. “It’s not a game of physicality. It’s a game, mentally. And you’ve got to beat them mentally.”
And Morgan beat Liberty, mentally.
The Rams played the Patriots to a one-all tie in the Class 4A Sunrise Region quarterfinals at Bettye Wilson Park on Thursday night, but prevailed 6-5 in a shootout to advance to the semifinals on Friday.
Both teams converted their first five penalty kicks, and Rancho scored on its sixth to pave the way for Morgan’s diving, game-clinching save in the bottom right corner.
“My original plan was to stay to one side the whole entire game,” Morgan said. “I was able to concentrate … and get the save.”
And the win.
The Rams (7-8-4) will play Coronado (22-2-3) on Friday afternoon for a berth in the region championship. The Patriots concluded their season with a 10-7-4 record.
Hayden Prasad gave Liberty a lead midway through the first half by converting a spectacular feed from Ben Stang. But Rancho’s back line stiffened in the second half and denied the Patriots’ viable scoring opportunities.
“Really good job (on defense),” Rams coach Guillermo Quintana-Rocha said through an interpreter. “From a 1-10, we did an eight. We could have done better, but we still did good.”
Rancho’s Ricardo Galvan tied the game midway through the second half, setting the stage for two scoreless 15-minute overtime sessions and Morgan’s late-game heroics.
“Penalties are always a 50-50,” Quintana-Rocha said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
On Thursday, they went Rancho’s way.
Coronado 3, Las Vegas 1 — At Bettye Wilson Park, the Cougars unleashed three goals during a 10-minute span to earn a victory over the Wildcats in the Sunrise Region quarterfinals.
Grant Smyth, Alfredo Diaz and Patrick Komanowski scored for Coronado, and Lincoln Aquino had two assists.
Anthony Gonzalez had a goal, and Nathan Zamora had an assist for Las Vegas, which finished the year with a 12-8-2 mark.
Eldorado 5, Silverado 1 — At Bettye Wilson Park, the Sundevils scored three first-half goals and coasted to a victory over the Skyhawks in the Sunrise Region quarterfinals.
Sebastian Ramirez and Roberto Soto scored two goals apiece for Eldorado. Jose Benitez added a goal, and Robert Gonzalez had three assists. The Sundevils (13-2-3) advance to play Canyon Springs (13-4-2) on Friday.
Jaime Ayala had a goalm and David Matias-Flores had an assist for Silverado, which concluded its season 7-13-1.
Canyon Springs 3, Foothill 2 — At Bettye Wilson Park, Eduardo Quintero-Rodriguez scored in the second overtime period to lift the Pioneers past the Falcons for their first-ever playoff victory.
Roberto Salazar scored a goal, and Alejandro Castro added an assist for Canyon Springs (13-4-2), which scored on an own goal in the first half.
Trent Milne and Dylan Verrastro scored goals for Foothill, which wrapped the year up with an 8-10-1 record.
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.