Varsity Extra

Caldwell senior nearly quit soccer. On Saturday, he delivered the Cougars a state title.

With family obligations at home, Erik Lozano thought about giving up soccer more than once this season.

If Lozano had quit, the season might have ended very differently for the Caldwell High boys soccer team.

Lozano scored the golden goal in overtime to send Caldwell (19-2-1) to a 2-1 victory over Jerome (16-4-1) in the 4A state championship match Saturday at Middleton High.

His game-winning shot from about 40 yards out came on a free kick in the 86th minute.

“The reason I coach, you saw it right there,” Caldwell coach Rhys Yeakley said. “... His parents sometimes tell him you can’t play soccer, you need to help with the family business. He struggled for four years with whether or not soccer was the right decision for him because he had family that needed him to help with work and things like that.

“... He almost quit two or three times even though he loves soccer, and he wasn’t even a starter until five or six days ago. When we really went on a roll is when that kid became a starter. And that’s why at the end I was yelling ‘Lozano, Lozano, Lozano’ because I just felt it. That could have been a Disney movie right there. For that kid to get that goal at that moment was just amazing.”

Lozano’s teammates had a feeling, too. Damian Arguello, the Cougars’ leading scorer with 41 goals this season, could have taken the free kick but asked Lozano to do it instead.

“When I saw Erik on the ball, I just knew something special would happen,” Arguello said. “... I just looked at him and said: ‘Shoot it. Take it.’ I just believed in him, and when he hit that shot and it went in — just joy, just happiness. I ran straight to him.”

Saturday’s championship was the second in a row for the Cougars, but much less expected. Arguello was the only returning starter from last season and one of just three lettermen back.

“This was the year I just wanted to get some kids some experience, and then I thought maybe next year and the year after we could put together another nice run,” Yeakley said. “Even in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have thought we’d win another state championship this year.”

While Caldwell’s 2018 title team was filled with “superstars,” it took the collective belief of an unheralded group of Cougars to get the job done in 2019.

“Nobody thought we were gonna make it to districts or state, and now look at us,” Lozano said. “We just have a lot of heart. We’re a team with big heart, and we just won’t give up.”

Arguello was the first to score in the title match, heading home a goal in the 15th minute off a deflection from teammate Clay Walton. Jerome’s Ubaldo Palacios evened the match at 1-1 with an unassisted goal in the 49th minute. The score remained tied through 80 minutes of regulation.

“If they had won that game, I would have just tipped my hat and said you guys were the better team today,” Yeakley said. “It was so evenly matched I felt like either team could have won that game and been deserving of it.”

It took a perfect ball from Lozano to end the deadlock in overtime. His shot cut a curved path through the air and landed just inside the top right corner of the goal. Lozano then ran with his arms outstretched toward the Caldwell bench as his teammates came charging toward him.

“I couldn’t have picked a better player to get that game-winner,” Yeakley said. “He’ll remember that. That’ll change that kid’s life.”

Emmett 3, Canyon Ridge 2: Kiko Solis scored a pair of goals and Angel Ayala added another as the Huskies (14-7-1) bounced back from a first-round loss to win the consolation title.

3A BOYS SOCCER

Sun Valley 6, Weiser 0: Willy DeWolfe recorded a hat trick to lead the Cutthroats (19-1-2) to back-to-back state titles. Weiser (15-2-4) finishes as the runner-up.

1026kunagirlssoccer14
Goalie Ariel Kotte, left, Baily Davis and Kassie Gorton accept Kuna’s second place trophy with mixed emotions in the 4A state girls soccer championships. Kuna lost to Sandpoint 2-0 on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 at Middleton High School. Katherine Jones kjones@idahostatesman.com

4A GIRLS SOCCER

Jayla Ponce couldn’t walk, so her Kuna High teammates brought the trophy to her.

Even in defeat, the Kavemen stuck together.

Sandpoint claimed its eighth 4A state championship since 2000 with a 2-0 victory against Kuna on Saturday night at Middleton High.

“What didn’t they do? They played for each other. They played together,” Kuna coach Chris Reynolds said. “They just battled all year long, and we played some of the toughest competition in this conference that’s in the whole state. We just had that belief that we could do it. We set those goals early that we were going to get here and we did what it took to get here.”

The Kavemen (18-3-1) were playing without several starters against the Bulldogs (14-3-0). They lost senior Emily Hardin to a concussion in the district championship game last week, and then Ponce went down with a knee injury midway through the second half. Ponce and junior Alexis Haws shared the team lead with 30 goals apiece this season.

Kuna was down 1-0 when Ponce was injured.

“Unfortunately we didn’t find the back of the net,” Reynolds said. “I really, really felt like we had a solid plan coming in. We went out and executed, really took it to them. I kind of feel like the better team didn’t end up the winner tonight, but it is what it is. Sometimes that happens.”

A day after putting an end to Bishop Kelly’s 84-game unbeaten streak, the Bulldogs thought they might have to play the majority of the championship match without star goalkeeper Hattie Larson. She was injured in the 19th minute and had to come off the field.

“We don’t have a backup goalkeeper designated, so we just had one of our toughest players step in there and that was (freshman) Kelsey Cessna,” Sandpoint coach Conor Baranski said. “She had to make a one-on-one save and she did it, which is incredible.”

Larson was able to return to the game with about 14 minutes left before halftime and her team leading 1-0 thanks to a goal from sophomore forward Kylie Williams. The Bulldogs went on the defensive from there as Larson and her back line denied Kuna time and time again.

Sandpoint added an insurance goal in the 77th minute when Emma Thielbahr’s free kick bounced off a Kuna defender and into the goal.

“We had taken second place for three years in a row. That’s been a lot of long bus rides home,” Baranski said. “All these players, it means so much to them, especially our seniors. All of them have been there for all three of the second-place finishes, so this is pretty darn special for our team and our community.”

Bishop Kelly 3, Skyline 0: The Knights (20-1-1) bounced back from a semifinal loss to win the third-place trophy. Sydney Cromwell scored a pair of goals, Mia Cartwright added another and Natalie Phillips made five saves for Bishop Kelly, which closed the season with 21 straight shutouts. The only goal it allowed all year came in its season opener.

Middleton 1, Bonneville 0: Junior midfielder Addi Wyatt scored in the 36th minute, and Ashlyn Creekmore stopped 10 shots as the Vikings (14-8-2) won the consolation final.

3A GIRLS SOCCER

Coeur d’Alene Charter 3, Sugar-Salem 0: The Panthers (18-1-0) made history with their fourth straight state title, a first for a boys or girls soccer team in any classification since the IHSAA started sponsoring the sport in 2000. Isabella Lucky, Sarah Hines and Cadence Wilson scored.

Marsh Valley 2, Weiser 0: The Wolverines (12-7-2) fell in the third-place game despite 14 saves from Melissa Sandoval.

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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