Sidewinders top Gila Ridge to bolster their playoff chances, hurt Hawks
There was a range of emotions on the field after the San Luis-Gila Ridge game Thursday night.
The Sidewinders were celebrating their 2-1 victory over the Hawks by cheering and giving their head coach Ian McDougall the traditional Gatorade shower.
“For us, even on the first day when I took over this program, we knew how hard it was going to be to make state with only 16 (teams) out of 56,” McDougall said. “That was our goal on Day 1. Our goal from day one was to qualify for state and we checked that off.”
The Hawks, however, were hanging their heads, nervously waiting to hear whether they will make the playoffs.
Gila Ridge was ranked No. 13 coming into the game, but fell to No. 16 after — teeter-tottering on the brink of having their playoff dreams crushed.
“It's actually really unfortunate,” McDougall said. ”I think there really are a lot of good players and teams in this area. But having 56 teams and only 16 qualify, you really can't afford to have bad games.”
The Hawks will find out Saturday morning if their 14-4 season was good enough to claim a coveted playoff spot.
“We've got to wait and see,” Gila Ridge coach Jay VanWassenhoven said. “If we can take the effort from the second half here and put it towards any playoff games, I really like our chances. If we can just get in — it's so difficult.”
The Arizona Interscholastic Association website had San Luis ranked No. 11 after the game, likely securing its spot in the playoffs.
The key second goal for the Sidewinders (10-2) was scored by senior forward Julio Carranza in the 22nd minute.
“It's amazing because that was a goal for us to go to state,” Carranza said. “It's just great.”
Thursday's senior night game was bittersweet for Carranza. He said he was happy to get the win, but sad to know this was the last time he'd play on his home field.
“It was a little special because it was my last home game. I had to do something to say my goodbyes. It's sad because I love playing here. It's a good program.”
The Sidewinders were able to score their first goal in the 12th minute off the foot of Leonardo Moreno to take a 1-0 lead.
Gila Ridge emerged as a different team in the second half, turning the pressure on for the San Luis defenders.
The Hawks finally broke through in the 44th minute when Lupe Paz was able to knock one into the back of the net — but it wasn't enough to lift them past San Luis.
“Obviously we're not happy with the result,” VanWassenhoven said. “But our effort in the second half, I thought was outstanding.
“If you would've come at the second half and only watched half the game, you would've been like, ‘How did we lose 2-1?' But there's two halves to every game and they (San Luis) definitely had the better run of the play in the first half. It was too big of a deficit to overcome.”
With their spot in the playoffs likely secure, McDougall said the Sidewinders are prepared to make a good run through the state tournament.
“I feel like I have a great team. I feel like I do have the best team in Yuma County,” he said. “(We are) 10-2 on the year, we won a tournament. We're going into the playoffs with a lot of confidence and some great leadership. I just feel really comfortable and we'll find out who we get (Saturday). I'm really looking forward to it — especially since it's my first year with the boys.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at 539-6880 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/YSErinRedmond