COSTA MESA — A woman asked the boys from Mariners Elementary's team to line up for a photo before they stepped on the soccer field. Sunday was going to mark the last time the sixth-graders played together at the Daily Pilot Cup.
One player did not want to be a part of the photo.
"We'll get a picture when we win," he told the woman with the camera.
That is how confident Mariners went into the fifth- and sixth-grade gold division title match against Whittier. Keep in mind, Mariners had never won the gold division at the tournament, boys or girls.
Two players on the Mariners' roster had won twice before, but when they were third- and fourth-graders at another school. The players are twins Travis and Dylan Campos.
The duo helped Mariners taste first at the Daily Pilot Cup for the first time.
Travis recorded three goals and his brother assisted on one late to secure Mariners' 4-2 victory at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex. Out of the three Pilot Cup crowns won by the Campos brothers, they said this one was more special.
"We won it in the third- and fourth-grade [division] and it was really easy," Dylan said. "But then fifth and sixth is a whole different thing."
Dylan and Travis found it harder to get back to the top of the Pilot Cup. Last season, their first at Mariners after leaving Carden Hall, Dylan and Travis fell short in the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Rea.
This year, Mariners did not have to face Rea. Whittier did it a favor, preventing Rea from winning a fifth straight title in the fifth- and sixth-grade gold division by knocking off the Sharks, 3-2, in the semifinals.
Both Whittier and Mariners had to rally in the morning to reach the championship match. Whittier overcame a 2-0 deficit and Mariners blew a 2-0 lead against Sonora and found itself behind, 3-2, at halftime.
Mariners Coach Graham Forman was shocked.
"When you're up, 2-0, you shouldn't be giving up three [straight goals]," Forman said.
"They responded incredibly in the second half to get us through."
Mariners scored the only two goals in the second half to beat Sonora, 4-3. Travis notched the game-winner, giving him three goals in the semis.
Mariners needed a second hat trick performance on Sunday from Travis to get out in front of Whittier in the finale. Travis obliged.
Travis' first goal, which gave Mariners a 1-0 lead, did not hold up. Whittier tied it right before halftime. Oscar Davila flipped a beautiful pass to a wide-open Raul Guerrero, who found the back of the net. He was all alone, standing a couple of feet from the goal line.
Mariners seemed to have lost all the momentum. But in the second half, Mariners was going to play downhill and it had a slight wind blowing its way.
Two minutes into the second half, Travis broke a 1-1 tie by zigzagging his way through the defense and then unleashing his second goal. One minute later, Travis put another shot away and Mariners jumped ahead, 3-1.
Forman was so sure Mariners was closing in on Pilot Cup history, he began to talk about his family back in England.
"This is going to go to nana," Forman said of his 83-year-old grandmother Marion, who is a big soccer fan. "She reads all these stories."
Forman said his grandma has not caught on to the internet, but Whittier almost caught up to Mariners.
Helping Whittier out was seeing Travis get red carded with nine minutes left to play. It is not often that you see a sixth-grader at the Pilot Cup receive a red card, but it happened.
Forman had to get back to coaching.
Travis' father, Bruno, who was holding a spray bottle, had to cool himself down. Bruno could not believe his son was out of the match for good.
Whittier took advantage. Coach Ricky Avila has a resilient side. His son, Alex, showed that Whittier has no quit in it. Alex cut the deficit to 3-2 by producing a goal in the 55th minute.
With five minutes left in regulation, Travis began to stress.
"I was kind of grinding my teeth on the sideline after they scored because it was really close," Travis said.
Forman began to sweat, later joking that he almost suffered a heart attack.
To the rescue was another Campos. Forman said he gets the twins confused, but he knew he had one still playing.
Dylan won a ball and penetrated the defense before finding Connor Kincaid nearby. Kincaid picked a great time to score his first goal of the tournament. Kincaid found the upper-right corner of the net, giving Mariners a two-goal lead and teammates, coaches and fans a reason to cheer.
"[The title is] going to be dedicated really to all the boys that come through this school and tried so hard, [but] they got knocked out in the quarters, in the semis, made it to the final, [but] don't get a name on the trophy," Forman said. "This is going be sweet for all of those boys."
It was so sweet that the woman with the camera finally got all the boys to smile for one last picture together.