The Archie Williams High boys’ soccer team entered the North Coast Section’s Division III semifinal against San Rafael on Tuesday, looking to make a bit of school history.
James Worthington scored in the 34th minute of the game and the defense held off a furious San Rafael rally in the final minutes to secure a 1-0 home win.
“I was looking at the records in NCS on the website,” Archie Williams’ coach Rene Ayala said. “According to them – they have records since 1973 – this is the first time an Archie Williams/Drake college football team has advanced to an NCS Finals.”
The Peregrine Falcons (13-3-5) are ready to take on a Marin Academy program with a wealth of big-game experience. The Wildcats have won 11 sectional titles since 2000, most recently winning the D-IV championship in 2019. Top-seeded Marin Academy (16-3-2) is expected to host No. 2 Archie Williams in the game for the title at 3:30. Friday midday.
“We’ve seen each other over the years,” Ayala said of MA. “We know what awaits us. We know it’s a great team. We know what they can do but, you know, we have a hell of a team here too. I look forward to this opportunity and the fact that we have earned a chance means the world to us.
The section’s final berth provided a measure of redemption for the Peregrine Falcons, who entered the season with exorbitant expectations but missed out on the MCAL playoffs after finishing a single point behind San Rafael for fourth in the standings.
“We didn’t make it and it kind of ignited a fire in our hearts that should have been there all year,” said Archie Williams defender Zach Lillington. “We got out with that fire and took it to (San Rafael).”
After the teams played in a stalemate for most of the first half, the game changed dramatically in the final 10 minutes before the break. San Rafael cried for a penalty when Archie Williams goalkeeper Zach Castrejon was called for a foul for pushing a San Rafael player to the ground. The referees ruled that the foul occurred outside the penalty area. No penalty was awarded and Juan Bonilla’s free kick went off target.
“It was tough,” San Rafael Edgar Hernandez said of not getting the call. “From our angle, he was looking inside (the box). But once they made the decision it’s kinda hard to change that so we just had to move on but it took us a little while because times like that don’t happen often .
Archie Williams immediately launched a counterattack, giving the ball to MCAL Player of the Year Owen Benson on the right touchline. Benson ran to the corner flag, cut along the baseline and sent a cross through the 18-yard box to Worthington, who found the back of the net to give Archie Williams a lead of 1-0.
“(Benson) passed it to the penalty spot,” Worthington said. “It went through the legs of our teammates – Cole (Henderson), he kind of faked it to me – and I just had a shot wide open and far. It was pretty clear and open, just at the inside of the foot and I tapped it.
Archie Williams had a number of chances to double their lead early in the second half but couldn’t finish any of them. San Rafael went in the 65th minute still down by just one goal and threw numbers forward in a bid to find the equaliser.
“You’ve been in the game so long and then you start thinking about games like these where it’s a one goal game and you don’t put those (chances) aside, nine times out of 10 they come back haunt you,” Ayala said. “I had that in mind for sure, but to our boys’ credit, we kept our cool, we fought, we dug balls when we got in. needed and here we are.”
San Rafael had a few dangerous corner kicks late, but Archie Williams’ back line was able to handle them. The Bulldogs’ best late chance came in the 80th minute when Norman Tellez fired a long-range shot that missed the goal by inches.
Keeping a defender in contact with Tellez was one of Ayala’s keys going into the game and that task fell to midfielder Davis Logan.
“It was pretty much about the midfield three staying compact and working as hard as possible,” Logan said. “We knew it would be a tough game. They have great players. … For me it was just about sticking to the game plan and making sure Norman was locked in and I tried to do that to the best of my abilities.
Castrejon – who took over as goaltender four weeks ago when starting goaltender Achilles Das was injured in a regular season game against Branson – has also been a key player for the Peregrine Falcons, parrying three shots from his crossbar during the game to earn the clean sheet.
Most of those saves came at the expense of San Rafael’s Angel Hidalgo, who was close to scoring from midfield free-kicks at least twice in the game.
“(Hidalgo) has crazy technical ability,” Hernandez said. “He can play a 50-yard ball wherever he wants. It can control space internally and take you one-on-one. In this game, if there was no pressure, the goal was to try to exploit the goalkeeper and test him a bit even if it’s far.
around the county
- Marin Academy left him late but scored in the final five minutes to claim a 1-0 win over No.5 Acalanes and set up an all-Marin final against Archie Williams. The winning goal came in the 77th minute after Malcolm Zalayet headed in a shot from the crossbar. Aiden Aley managed to get the ball over the line and give the Wildcats the win.
- Kevin Castro scored twice for Redwood, who beat MCAL foes Tam 3-0 in the NCS D-II semi-final. Dave Mazariegos scored the other goal for Redwood (17-3-3), who are set to host the Championship game at noon on Saturday. The Giants will face the winner of Tuesday’s late game, No. 2 Bishop O’Dowd and No. 3 Richmond.