Two schools with a history of success in the Daily Pilot Cup boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division met for the title of that division on Sunday afternoon.
Costa Mesa Rea Elementary has won the division a record nine times at the youth soccer tournament in its 19th year, but was making its first title match appearance since the last title in 2010. Costa Mesa Davis Magnet School was going for its third fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division crown in four years.
The Ducks rallied for the title at Costa Mesa High’s stadium. Davis prevailed 3-0 in penalty kicks after the teams played to a 2-2 tie through 60 regulation minutes.
Speedy Davis sixth-grader Kyle D’Alessandro scored an equalizing goal on a breakaway in the 56th minute before the Ducks’ Luke Sacuy, Logan Harper and Isa Ashraf scored in the shootout. Ashraf’s strike into the lower right-corner in the fourth round clinched the match, setting off a wild celebration from the team in orange.
“It means so much to these kids, man,” Davis coach Owen Markert said. “They never gave up and they never stopped believing in themselves. They don’t care about being an underdog. They were confident the whole time.”
Davis did play the underdog role, especially after losing 4-0 to defending champion Costa Mesa Mariners Christian in Wednesday’s pool-play opener. But the Ducks won their next four games for the title, including Saturday’s 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Costa Mesa Kaiser, another tournament favorite. Davis beat Corona del Mar Harbor Day 4-0 in a semifinal Sunday morning, as D’Alessandro scored twice, with Kyle Crowley and Sacuy adding goals.
Davis goalkeeper Rocco Villarreal made five regulation saves in the final, and one in the shootout. The other two Rea attempts went wide of the cage. Villarreal said the Ducks gained confidence late in their loss to Mariners Christian.
“The last five minutes of the game, we really found the way we should play,” Villarreal said. “We passed the ball around, and that’s the way we played the rest of the tournament.”
Davis’ Sacuy scored in the 29th minute of the final to give the Ducks a 1-0 halftime lead. Off a corner kick from the left, Harper tapped the ball to Sacuy, who bent a shot into the upper-right corner of the goal just past diving Rea keeper Joshua Huerta (four saves).
But Rea’s Noe Avalos scored twice early in the second half to give the Sharks the lead. In the 37th minute, he took a cross from Roberto Moreno, burying the shot into the left corner. Two minutes later, Moreno played the ball from around midfield to Irvin Martinez, whose initial shot from the left was blocked by Villarreal. Avalos was there for the rebound goal, but the Sharks lost the lead late after D’Alessandro’s goal assisted by Damien Soto.
Other contributors for the champion Ducks included Eddie De La Cruz, Makayo Thomas, Tanner Burnham, Grant Comeau, Aidan Markert and Justin Harlow. Yonatan Rodriguez, Ivan Cervantes, Daniel Henriquez, Andrew Lopez, Luis Hernandez and Jose Alfredo Orozco also aided Rea.
Martinez, Michael Santos and Thomas Guadarrama had all scored for Rea in Sunday morning’s 3-0 semifinal win over Corona del Mar Lincoln. But the Sharks weren’t quite able to bring the title back to Rea. Their coach, Pablo Arriaga, played on the 2009 and 2010 Rea title teams. Eight years later, he just finished up his sophomore year as a midfielder for the Vanguard University men’s soccer team.
Arriaga said the Sharks got a bit nervous in the shootout.
“Like I told them after the game, PKs sometimes just don’t go your way,” Arriaga said. “On Friday we had practice, and I made everyone shoot three or four times, but sometimes you can’t replicate that pressure of a final into a practice session.”