Firing the first shot proved to be productive for both teams, but it was the last shot that sent a charge into both sidelines in the boys' fifth- and sixth-grade Daily Pilot Cup clash between Paularino Elementary and Harbor Day School on Friday.
Paularino scored on its opening salvos in both halves, then withstood a late shot by Harbor Day that glanced off the top of the crossbar to allow the Panthers to come away with a 3-2 pool-play triumph in Silver Division play at Costa Mesa High.
Harbor Day scored on its first shot of the second half to finalize the scoring, as Mason Ressler continued his prolific tournament for the Seahawks. Ressler, one of an entire roster of fifth-graders for Harbor Day, which chooses to keep its teams together by class, has scored four of the Seahawks' five goals in the tournament, including a 3-1 win over Newport Heights in the pool-play opener.
But it was another Harbor Day forward who just missed tying the score in the final minute, drawing a simultaneous sigh of relief from Paularino rooters and a groan of disappointment from those backing Harbor Day.
"The ones that hit the crossbar are the worst," Harbor Day Coach Charles Ruck said. "My player [who took the shot, from about 15 yards in front] grabbed his head and went down. [The shot] was just a little bit off."
The late near-miss, however, was one of few misfires for Harbor Day, which converted two of its seven shots.
Paularino, meanwhile, produced 21 shots, many of which were quality chances that just weren't on frame.
"It's amazing," Paularino Coach Walter Olmedo said. "It's the same as [Thursday, in a 5-1 pool-play-opening victory over Eastbluff]. We probably had about 40 shots to [Eastbluff's] five."
A lack of cohesion, a common drawback for the quickly assembled teams that typically get very limited practice time together, was cited by Olmedo as the primary reason for the sloppy shooting.
"We have two teams, in the silver and bronze divisions, so it's hard to work together in a three-week span," Olmedo said. "We have what we have. We have a lot of talent, though we're not playing as a team yet. But we are looking better every game."
Danny Molina opened the scoring for Paularino, converting in the eighth minute on his team's first shot.
Ressler tied it in the 18th minute, but Brian Hernandez won a 50-50 ball in the box and boomed a shot into the net to put the Panthers ahead for good in the 21st minute.
On Paularino's fist shot of the second 25-minute half, Hernandez connected again, this time bouncing a shot over the goalkeeper for a 3-1 cushion.
But Ressler, with an assist from Ryder Haupt, pulled Harbor Day within 3-2 in the 33rd minute.
Harbor Day keepers Ryder Dunn and Griffin Lewis combined for seven saves, while Walter Olmedo, the coach' son, had two saves for Paularino.
Additional offensive catalysts for Paularino were David Hernandez and Angel Arriza, while sweeper Cooper Crandell also stood out for the winners.
Molina had three goals in the win over Eastbluff, against which Joseph Regalado and Arriza added goals.
Also contributing for Paularino were Sergio Suarez, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Junker, Luigi Palumbo, and Victor Mann.
Aiding the cause for Harbor Day were Aiden Anvipour, Alex Wainwright, Carson Webb, Dominic Cuneo, Henry Ruck, Mathew Poska, Max Sonenshine, Michael Vaughan, Nick Richardson, Prescott Cook and Preston Ewing.
Poska had a goal in the Seahawks' previous win over Newport Heights.