Huntington Beach High boys’ soccer coach Sean Dick did a number of things that went against his normal inclinations on Wednesday night.
The Oilers hosted the Wave League title match against Fountain Valley, and Dick was ready to try whatever was necessary to win it.
With his team trailing late, Dick threw the concept of shape out. He needed his team to apply more offensive pressure, and that meant stepping out of its comfort zone and playing a more direct style.
Huntington Beach created the chances that it needed, and Brandon Francis scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute, as the Oilers defeated the Barons 2-1 to win the league championship.
The Oilers (9-13-3, 5-1 in league) scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation, helping them claim their first league title since the 2014-15 season.
Francis also provided the assist on a set-piece goal in the 76th minute.
Junior attacking midfielder Justin Fujimori sent a cross in from the right corner flag. Francis headed into an open area, and Phillip Pham ran in to deposit the game-tying goal into the right side of the net.
“Towards the beginning of the game, I had a shot where I missed that I clearly should have put it in,” Francis said. “That put me down for the entire first half, but I knew that I didn’t want to be that person that had cost us the [Wave] League. It’s not just me. It’s a team, but I didn’t want to be one of the sole contributors to that, so I had to pick my head up. I’d like to credit the entire team, the coaches, too, because they all believed in me.
“That allowed me to believe in myself to come back for the end of the game and provide the assist to Phillip and then score the game-winning goal.”
Senior forward Brandon Bui made a run in on goal and forced the defense to concede the corner kick that led to the first Huntington Beach goal.
“We played more direct,” Dick said. “We had to force them to defend, and we got our share of chances because of it.”
On the game-winning goal, Francis went in alone on Fountain Valley goalkeeper Dylan Sprangel on a through ball by Fujimori in the attacking third. The junior forward got to the ball first, touching it past Sprangel before hurdling over the keeper to get to the loose ball and put it away.
“It’s just a split-second decision, but I saw when the ball came to me, I saw the defense shifting,” Fujimori said of the assist. “I saw Brandon. He was wide open on the left side, so I was like, ‘OK, just let me try to get that little touch over to Brandon.’
“The defender thankfully missed it, and it went straight to Brandon and through to goal. He put it away brilliantly.”
Dick regularly gives Daniel Kotkosky and Louis Penaflor each a half in goal, but he stuck with Kotkosky for the second half when Penaflor told him, “Daniel feels it.”
Kotkosky made five saves in the contest.
Fountain Valley (14-6, 4-2) carried the play in the first half, sending nine shots in the direction of the Huntington Beach goal. Speedy forwards Tyler Le and Malachi Wright were particularly dangerous.
The Barons broke the scoreless tie early in the second half on a goal by Andre Nguyen.
Francis’ goal put the Barons in desperation mode with the match heading into stoppage time. Fountain Valley thought that it had earned a penalty kick when Connor Wright went down in the box, but the play resulted in a goal kick.
“I was telling these guys, ‘When you’re on the road, you’ve got to get that second goal,’” Barons coach Jason Smith said. “Things like this [Huntington Beach comeback] happen. There are just too many factors on the road.