COSTA MESA — Late Friday night, Rea Elementary Coach Ryan Baker got the call he had been waiting for.
It was good news as he received confirmation that his boys' fifth- and sixth-grade gold division team advanced to Saturday's quarterfinals as a wild card in the 12th annual Daily Pilot Cup. Most of the Rea players thought they had been eliminated.
"I called all the kids to tell them, 'We've got a second chance,' " Baker said. "I told them, 'Let's take advantage of it. We're not dead yet.' "
The Sharks, who have won the past four gold division titles and nine in the past 11 years, are still alive.
Bryant Reyes recorded a hat trick in Rea's 3-1 victory over Lincoln Saturday at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex.
"This was the best we've played," Baker said. "They did take advantage of their second chance. They know what it felt like to lose [3-1 to Carden Hall on Friday]. I had eight kids crying. But we came out ready to play."
Rea's pool-play setback was its first loss since 2006 when the Sharks lost in the semifinals against TeWinkle, when the middle school had sixth-graders.
With a 1-1 record in pool play, Rea tied with Harbor Day for a wild-card spot. Both teams earned 10 points so the tiebreaker was goals scored against. Harbor Day had eight goals scored against and Rea had four. The Sharks moved on.
They opened the game with aggressive play. Baker said it helped playing with the wind. Reyes took advantage scoring three minutes into the game. He scored again in the first half to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead at the break.
Lincoln, the Pool D winner, came out strong in the second half, as it was the Leopards' turn to play with the wind. Paolo Carrillo scored with a nice shot into the top left corner of the goal to cut into Rea's lead.
But Reyes completed his hat trick with 15 minutes left to put the Sharks back in control for good.
Lincoln Coach Steve Shaw said the Leopards weren't nervous, but they were aware of Rea's success in the Pilot Cup.
"We probably weren't as sharp as we have been, but they may have caused that because they put so much pressure on us," Shaw said. "You have to give them credit."
The Leopards matched up well with the Sharks at moments. Brennan Greenwald played well in the midfield, as did Josh Kim, while Myles Glenn and Jake Pearson also contributed solid play.
Rea goalkeeper Hugo Jimenez stepped up with some big saves on some point-blank shots toward the end of the game. Sergio Lugo also stood out as a defender for the Sharks.
He marked Sam Nieger, one of Lincoln's top players.
"Working at Lincoln I had some inside knowledge there," said Baker, who also works at Rea as a physical education teacher. "I put my best defender to follow him around the game."
Baker will try to use some more knowledge Sunday to help his Sharks win a 10th title and a fifth straight championship. They'll need to get past the semifinals in the morning first.
Rea will play against Whittier at 10 a.m. A lot of the Whittier players were set to attend Rea, but both schools became K-through-6, and the Whittier kids stayed at their school.
The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Farm field No. 1.