The game-winning goal scored by Mariners Christian School forward Rusty Dahlke also turned out to be a memorable parting shot in the boys third- and fourth-grade Gold Division soccer final against Pegasus School in the Daily Pilot Cup on Sunday at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
Dahlke, who took a cross from teammate Hudson Bond on the right wing and patiently directed his shot inside the far post with about eight minutes remaining, said he would be leaving Mariners Christian to attend Salem Lutheran School in Orange next fall.
"That was my last game for the school," Dahlke said after his team claimed a 1-0 victory.
Both teams played as if it might be their last game, though the Lions from Mariners Christian got the better of play for most of the contest.
"We're pretty stacked," Lions Coach Dave Dahlke said after his team produced a 22-6 advantage in shots. "We have five flight-one club players, who play for West Coast, Mission Viejo, Irvine Pateadores and Irvine Strikers. And the rest of the boys are pretty athletic and play AYSO or on a lower club level."
The skill level for MCS was apparent, with Rusty Dahlke, Bond, Hudson Delorme, Bennett Penticuff and defender Joel Smith consistently distinguishing themselves.
Pegasus also had its standouts, with fearless goalkeeper Josh Niedermayer (nine saves), nimble forward Noah Lindo, offensive catalysts Dan Kotkosky and Jason Plumb, as well as defender Jarrett Haft leading the way.
Smith regularly launched driving shots toward the goal and also made it his mission to diffuse most of the Thunder's scoring chances.
Pegasus' best chance came in the final minutes, when Lindo dribbled to the top of the box and let loose a shot that MCS keeper Gavin Van Mil caught above his head while gliding to his right for the last of his four saves.
"We had our chance there at the end." Pegasus Coach Michael Plumb said. "Our guys all played great, but you know, sometimes there's a bounce that goes one way or the other. I think that was one of those games."
Mariners Christian posted its fourth shutout of the tournament to finish with a 14-3 goal advantage in its five games. It defeated Davis Elementary, 4-3, in the semifinals on Sunday, after taking down Newport Heights (4-0), Wilson (1-0) and Harbor Day (4-0).
Pegasus finished with a 15-2 goal differential, including shutouts against Our Lady Queen of Angels (5-0), Pomona (4-0) and semifinal foe Lincoln (4-0). The Thunder edged Kaiser, 2-1, for its other victory in the tournament.
"We gave up two goals in the whole tournament, but today happened to be one of them," Michael Plumb said. "[Niedermayer] was awesome. He kept us in the game. And [Lindo] did a great job. He played the hardest out of anyone. We didn't quite put it together [Sunday], but the kids had a whole lot of fun. They are such a great group of guys, I couldn't be more proud of them."
Dave Dahlke praised Pegasus for its determination.
"[The Thunder] hung in there," the elder Dahlke said. "They are scrappy and their little guy [Lindo] is phenomenal.
"But Rusty plays forward in club and he just scores goals. That's what he does. He's technical, so he can receive and score, and he's not afraid to do it. He doesn't panic [with scoring chances], so that's how he got one today."
Also contributing for Mariners Christian were Camden Accordy, Carson Schmidt, Ty Cafferfield, Briton Proctor, Matthew Parrill, Matthew Arguello, Dylan Spoolstra and Holden Swanson.
Additional factors for Pegasus were Max Milo, Colton Quick, Gabriel St. Hilaire, Lock Darmer, AJ Plumb, Jared Aimone and Blake Cogan.