Sartans sink the Scorps (Game report)

Sartans sink the Scorps

— By Louie St. George III —
The Daily Times

BERNALILLO — The T-shirts said it all: dynasty.

With five straight state championships and 13 in the last 14 years, the St. Pius boys soccer program is indeed dynastic.

Farmington (16-8, 3-1 in the postseason) made a valiant run at the Sartans’ remarkable streak of success on Saturday in Bernalillo, where the two teams met in the Class 4A state championship match. St. Pius (20-3, 3-0) held off the upset bid by parlaying a first-half goal into a 1-0 win as the Sartans claimed their 15th state title in the program’s history and brought an end to the Scorpions’ dramatic postseason run.

“At the beginning of the season, nobody thought this group would be playing for a state championship,” FHS coach Pete Rankin said after the Scorps received the second-place trophy. “The guys did a super job and it was really just a team effort.”

Early in the week, it appeared unlikely that Rankin’s team would be challenging the mighty Sartans for state supremacy. The Scorps, seeded sixth, were sluggish in a 1-0 opening-round win over Capital on Wednesday. A day later, FHS was on the brink of elimination, trailing Santa Teresa 2-1 with three minutes to play. But a three-goal outburst propelled the Scorps into the semifinals, where they knocked off the No. 2 seed, Los Alamos.

That win set up a rematch with top-ranked St. Pius, a team that has ended Farmington’s season the last two years and four of the last six.

“We upset the No. 2 seed and the No. 3 seed and we thought, ‘OK, why not upset the No. 1 seed,’” said Farmington’s senior goalkeeper Marcus Richardson.

St. Pius got on the board six minutes into the match when forward Sergio Cordova beat Richardson to the lower left corner for what turned out to be the game-winner. Cordova, who, like the rest of the Sartans wore his hair half black and half blonde, took a pretty feed from teammate Jesse Davis and tucked a right-footed drive past a diving Richardson and inside the post.

Despite posting an 8-7 advantage in shots on goal, the Scorps were unable to solve Sartans keeper Francisco Martinez. Then again, who has? The last time St. Pius allowed a goal was a 2-0 loss to Sandia Prep on Sept. 2. The Sartans ended the season with 16 consecutive shutouts.

“I give all the credit to our defense,” said Sartans coach Jorge Tristani. “It was a very competitive match, but I give Farmington credit. They’ve been improving and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

The Scorps had a chance to even the match in the 24th minute on a play that began with a Micki Tadeo-Smith corner kick, but the ensuing header sailed wide left. Ten minutes later, Josh Cruz nearly doubled the St. Pius lead. Cruz’s attempt flew over Richardson, who came out to challenge, and glanced off the crossbar.

Four minutes into the second half, the Sartans’ Kyle Driscoll received a yellow card, setting the stage for Farmington’s best opportunity of the afternoon. Tadeo-Smith pushed his corner kick in front of the St. Pius net, where a waiting Tylan Berhost headed it and appeared to have an open sliver along the right side of the net. But Martinez sprawled out to make a diving save.

“The keeper made a great save,” Rankin said simply. “Tylan knocked it right at the post. It could’ve gone either way.”

The Sartans received four yellow cards and Farmington had three in what, at times, was a chippy match.

“That’s what you expect,” Rankin explained. “We’re a physical team and they’re a physical team, and at this level you’re going to get hit. That’s soccer.”

Farmington was backed by a sizable and boisterous cheering section perched along part of a hill that ran the length of the field. But the crowds’ frequent chants of “FHS” and “Let’s go Scorps” couldn’t help Farmington break through.

Still, Richardson said getting to the title tilt was a feat he and his teammates could be proud of.

“Most people didn’t even expect us to be here,” he said, “so being here is an accomplishment.”

When asked whether, in a game of Saturday’s magnitude, he’d rather lose 1-0 or 6-0, Richardson was quick to respond.

“I’d rather not lose at all,” he quipped, “but if we do I’d rather it be 1-0 because people will then know that Farmington can play soccer.”