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Kings march on
When Michael Eldrige starting picking up the slack, the Lions didn't have a chance.
The Kofa senior defender cleared two shots in front of an empty goal, the first coming when his Kings had a two-goal lead, to help preserve a shutout in a 5-0 win in the first round of the 5A-I Boys Soccer State Playoffs on Wednesday at Raiders Field.
“Those two balls he saved, they were going to the back of the net,” Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander said. “We go over in practice certain drills, but guys have to remember that in stressful situations. And he did. He was in the right position where he was supposed to be and stopped to the ball.”
The win keeps the Kings (12-0) perfect in AIA games this season. They advance to the quarterfinals to face Mountain Pointe, which earlier in the day beat Kofa's Gila Valley Region rival San Luis 2-1.
The Kings wasted little time in scoring when Estefan Jimenez scored on a cross from Josh Segura in the fourth minute. The wind was stiff for most of the first half but died down in the second half.
But the Lions couldn't score with the wind in the first half, and had no different luck in the second half thanks to Garcia, Eldrige and the rest of the Kofa defense.
“I always have to cover Zach. It's just what I do for him,” Eldrige said. “He's new to keeping and I'm trying to keep a clean sheet for him. I was there at the right place at the right time.”
Kofa scored 3:01 into the second half when Jimenez returned the favor from the first goal and assisted Segura. Eldrige made his defensive gem about 10 minutes into the half, then with 26:46 left in the game Donal Landrum scored his 24th goal, extending his school record.
There wasn't as much drama when Eldrige made his second defensive stop since his Kings had a three-goal cushion and haven't given up more than two goals in a game this year, but it still sparked the offense again. With 23:50 left, Jimenez scored his second goal by pushing in a deflected free kick.
“It gives you a huge burst to know your back line is as good as your front line up top,” Nicewander said. “That the guys in the back are going to work just as hard to score goals. That's a huge part of having a team, a team with 11 guys on the field to perform for each other.”
Eldrige said the team gets fired up after any big defensive play.
“Everyone was fired up,” Eldrige said. “We kept yelling and getting each other more pumped, which just led to more goals.”
Erik Altamirano scored the final Kofa goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.