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Mariners Christian breaks through to capture boys' 5-6 Gold Division crown

After a scoreless first half, coaches did their best to motivate the boys from Mariners Christian and Kaiser elementary schools. There really wasn’t much to say, the players knew what was at stake: the Daily Pilot Cup boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division championship.

Both teams stayed fired up Sunday at Costa Mesa High’s new stadium, Mustangs Field. Mariners Christian scored two early goals in the second half and held off Kaiser for a 2-1 victory on Sunday.

It was a very meaningful win for the Mariners Christian Lions. Last year, the boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade team lost to eventual champion Davis on penalty kicks in the semifinals. The boys’ third- and fourth-grade team fell in the Gold Division championship game to Kaiser 4-3 last year when the Knights captured their first Pilot Cup boys’ crown, in any division.

This year, the Lions had three fifth-graders and 14 sixth-graders on the boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division championship team.

“They came together as a group and played strong for each other,” said Mariners Christian coach Tayt Ianni, a former Major League Soccer player. “It was fun. So many guys contributed.”

Ianni added that the Lions’ three fifth-graders were special, including Ethan Jones, Owen Tift and Ryan Yonkers.

Tift, a forward, scored the Lions’ first goal, converting on a breakaway three minutes into the second half. Seven minutes later, Mariners Christian forward Jack Morris drew a foul in the box and then he connected on the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.

Jake Read also played forward for Mariners Christian.

“Those guys were outstanding,” Ianni said of the forwards.

Ianni was also happy about the defense and he said he was proud of his son, Luke, who controlled the midfield.

Mariners Christian began the tournament with one tough win, as part of its 5-0 run to the championship. The Lions beat Pomona 3-2 to open the 18th annual Daily Pilot Cup at Mustangs Field.

Mariners Christian allowed just two goals the rest of the way, posting shutouts against Andersen (3-0) and Wilson (5-0 in the quarterfinals).

The Lions took out Whittier 3-1 in the semifinals. Whittier had appeared in the championship game the past two years, losing to Davis both times.

Kaiser entered the championship game with great confidence, Knights coach Roya Young said. The Knights outscored opponents 10-3 before the title match, including a 3-2 win over St. Joachim in the semifinals.

“We’ve gotten closer and closer every year,” Young said. “They are so upset they didn’t take it this year and they thought they would have. We love it and we’ll be back every year. This is not going to take us down.”

With nine minutes left in the match, Mariners Christian did its best to clear the ball near its goal. But Deven Regan poked through and fired a nice shot into the net for Kaiser.

However, the Lions held off the Knights over the final nine minutes. During that time, Kaiser’s Nate Simmons delivered an all-out effort, as did the rest of his teammates.

Cade Mock, David Fleck, Jacob Jurczyk and Ryan Magnani stood out on defense for the Knights.

Kaiser had a great showing at the Pilot Cup with 19 teams. Four of those teams reached the finals, with the boys’ third-and fourth-grade Gold Division and boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade Silver Division teams winning. The girls’ fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division team fell to Andersen 1-0 in the title match at Mustangs Field.

steven.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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