NCS boys soccer: Montgomery holds off Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa's Urbano Ortiz (17) goes up for a header against Montgomery's Alex Gomez during Saturday night's NCS Division 1 playoff game. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa’s Urbano Ortiz (17) goes up for a header against Montgomery’s Alex Gomez during Saturday night’s NCS Division 1 playoff game. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a game of punches and counter-punches, it was the Montgomery boys who landed the most blows Saturday, downing Santa Rosa 4-2 in a North Coast Section Division 1 second-round playoff game.

The result gave the Vikings a clean sweep in their season series with the Panthers, but none of the three victories came easy. Montgomery won a pair of 2-1 games during the North Bay League season, and this one was tied 2-2 as deep as 62 minutes into the action.

“They play us as tough as anybody,” Vikings coach Jon Schwan said. “For me, it’s just fun to see. These kids don’t know of a time when this was the rivalry. Anytime you can get that back, it’s good.”

Santa Rosa was pressing the action in the second half, but it was Monty junior Alex Gomez, who had moved from defense to the midfield, who broke through and gave his team the lead in the 63rd minute.

“That was just a stroke of brilliance right there,” Schwan said. “The ball in from Enrique (Mora), and Oscar (Soto) stepping over — we call that a dummy, letting that go. It’s knowing each other, but it was also some communication out on the field, and Alex saying, ‘Let that go, let that go.’ And then a wonderful strike.”

It was a gratifying play for Schwan. Among his pregame chalkboard reminders Saturday, No. 2 was CONSTANT COMMUNICATION THROUGHOUT.

“I saw a good opportunity to turn on the speed and just kill the opponent on the first touch,” Gomez said.

Vikings junior Evan Martinez sank a goal in injury time to provide the final score.

Montgomery (17-3-2), hunting its third NCS title in four years, will face another league foe, Casa Grande, in a semifinal game Wednesday.

Santa Rosa, meanwhile, felt the sting of Saturday’s loss even while celebrating a huge turnaround.

After consecutive three-win seasons, the Panthers bounced back to go 14-7-3 under coach Antonio Garcia, beating Sonoma Valley in the first round of the playoffs before falling to top seed Montgomery.

Ninth-seeded Santa Rosa wasn’t at all intimidated by the Vikings, even after falling behind 2-0 in the first half.

The game was scoreless until the 24th minute, when Martinez scored on a penalty kick, drawing Panthers goalkeeper Osvaldo Benavides left and then shooting the ball into the right corner of the goal.

Less than two minutes later, Monty caught a break and scored again. Oscar Soto stole the ball and passed ahead to Alejandro Escutia. Caught in traffic that included goalie Benavides, Escutia stopped short, and a Santa Rosa defender scored an own-goal when he couldn’t stop his momentum.

The Panthers cut their deficit in half in the 35th minute when forward Seamus Young found a rebound of Urbano Ortiz’s shot and scored with Montgomery goalkeeper Jordan Page on the ground.

Santa Rosa struck again in the 45th minute when Bryan Juarez beat a pair of defenders and centered the ball to Young, who nailed another goal.

“We were disappointed in being down 2-0,” said Garcia, who, like Schwan, played soccer at Montgomery. “We thought it was unfortunate what happened in the first 20 minutes. But we’re never afraid of anyone. We weren’t afraid of anyone from the start.”

The game got a little chippy toward the end. Montgomery was hit with two yellow cards, and Santa Rosa’s Juarez was sent off with a red card moments before the game ended.

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