COSTA MESA – Late in the first half, third- and fourth-grade boys from Mariners Christian School appeared disappointed and distraught.
Facing a two-goal deficit can do that to kids in a soccer game. But their heads hung low only for a short while. They encouraged each other. Coaches Clay Randall, Kyle Chin and Jack McBean continually pumped up the MCS boys.
They began to believe and Kaiser couldn’t stop them. Christian Randall led the charge. He scored three goals and added an assist to lead MCS to an impressive 4-3 win to capture the gold division title in the Daily Pilot Cup Sunday at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex.
“I thought we were going to lose,” Christian said of the 3-1 deficit after 23 minutes. “But I told my team, ‘keep your heads up. We have another whole half and we can score.’ ”
It was easy to spot Christian Randall during the game. He was the quickest player with the ball. He was also the boy who wore a long-sleeve shirt underneath his bright turquoise Daily Pilot Cup T-shirt.
Kaiser knew who he was and they couldn’t stop him. He was just too determined, and he typified the MCS team.
The Knights were just as passionate with their play. During halftime, Kaiser coaches Anthony Sanchez and Gerrado Jimenez sensed momentum building from Mariners Christian.
“Who wants it,” Jimenez loudly asked his players.
“We do,” they all shouted back.
On the other sideline, clay Randall told his players, “You’ve got to want it.”
They were challenged when Kaiser went up, 3-1.
Alex Enriquez started the scoring, finishing off a cross from Richard Torres five minutes into the intense game.
But Christian Randall responded eight minutes later to tie it up, 1-1.
After a hand violation near the MCS goal, Torres connected on a penalty kick. Then MCS appeared crushed after allowing an own goal in the 23rd minute. It came after Torres booted a corner kick.
However, Randall scored from about 20 yards out with seven minutes left in the first half to start the MCS comeback.
“This team has a heart of a lion,” Clay Randall said. “They came into every game as warriors. They never dropped down their guard. They never dropped down their energy level. They kept their team spirit up … They just gave it all.”
Four minutes into the second half, Christian Randall ran through the Kaiser defense to set himself up with a one-on-one against the ’keeper. Christian won that battle to tie the game.
The momentum was clearly on the Dolphins’ side.
Then with 20 minutes left, Ian Smith scored the game-winner. He headed in Christian Randall’s perfect corner kick.
“He is a man after my own heart,” Clay Randall said of his son. “He just puts everything on the line. He’s just focused. He just won’t stop. He just went after it. He did it way above my expectations.”
Clay Randall said the Dolphins were inspired by coaches McBean and Chin. They have been great role models for the young MCS players, Clay Randall said. They were part of MCS teams that won three gold division titles in the Daily Pilot Cup.
They were on the team that ended Rea’s championship run in 2006, the only time the Sharks have lost in the title game of the boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade gold division since 2001.
McBean was a star freshman in the winter, helping lead the Corona del Mar High boys’ soccer team to a CIF Southern Section Division IV title and a CIF Southern California Division II regional championship.
Many parents’ cameras flashed when Christian Randall jumped up in Chin’s arms to pose for a picture. Christian Randall hung between Chin and McBean with an arm around each coach. They all smiled.
McBean was running late for practice with his Olympic Development Program regional team in Fullerton. But he stayed for the end of the game and the celebration. He didn’t want to miss the young players enjoying their lesson: never give up.