For three seasons, Shawn Slattery languished on Bishop Gorman’s junior varsity boys soccer team, waiting for his chance to show everyone what he could do.
The opportunity came Wednesday in a key moment in the Gaels’ most important match of the year, and Slattery made the most of it.
The Gorman senior beat two defenders on the right side, and buried a low shot just inside the left post seven minutes into overtime to lift the Gaels to a 3-2 win over Palo Verde in a Sunset Region semifinal at Heritage Park.
Gorman (11-2-2) will meet Durango (13-3-3) for the region title at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a kid who has been on junior varsity for three years and thinks he should be on varsity, and he probably should have been last year,” Gorman coach Doug Borgel said. “He never complains. He’s the hardest worker. He takes advantage of his chances. He’s got great individual skills.”
Slattery likely wasn’t many people’s pick to score the winner, but he simply put his head down and refused to be denied.
“Hard work,” Slattery said. “I just ran down the field and beat those two guys and just shot it.”
The Gaels needed the lift after letting a 2-0 lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation.
Kyler Obata cut Gorman’s lead in half, scoring on a penalty kick in the 77th minute after the Gaels were guilty of a handball in the box.
The Panthers (11-2-6) tied it in the closing seconds of regulation when Mitchell Scott headed in Griffin Mallas’ deep free kick. The Gaels argued the goal came after time had expired, but it stood.
“One thing I stress to these guys all the time is no lead is ever safe, especially in the playoffs,” Borgel said. “We had to refocus and forget what happened. We had been outplaying them for 79 minutes. It shows a lot of intestinal fortitude by our kids.”
Gorman broke a scoreless tie nine minutes into the second half when Austin Moore banged home his own rebound, and made it 2-0 on Blake Balelo’s goal midway through the half.
Durango 2, Sierra Vista 1 — The Trailblazers did their scoring in a four-minute span in the second half and clinched their first region final appearance since 2000 with a win over the Mountain Lions.
Durango (13-3-3) trailed 1-0 before finally getting on the scoreboard in the 65th minute when Raul Pacheco was in front to redirect Cristoval Magana’s throw-in from the left side.
It was the spark the Trailblazers needed as Durango used its speed to create the winning goal just three minutes later.
Magana sent a long pass up the left wing for Wasajja Walugembe, who neatly crossed the ball to teammate Paris Estrada. Estrada’s shot deflected in off the Sierra Vista goalkeeper.
“We didn’t have possession of the ball at all in the first half,” Durango coach Harold Nichols said. “We decided to play more on the flanks in the second half, and it paid off.”
Sierra Vista (7-8-3) scored just before the midway point of the first half when Max Vintilov tipped in Truitt Evans’ cross from the right side of the field.
The Mountain Lions had two excellent chances to extend the lead in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but narrowly mistimed crossing passes in front of an open net.
“It’s stressful, but I’m just happy to see the boys make it this far,” Nichols said.