COSTA MESA — While the opposing team jumped around in a huddle, repeatedly yelling, “I believe that we will win!” Mariners Christian School stood and watched.
Harbor Day, with 20 players, made a lot of noise. Mariners Christian lacked all the pre-game hype, but at the end, its players were the ones jumping on top of each other.
The Mariners Christian Dolphins believed they would prevail at the 14th annual Daily Pilot Cup and they pulled it off, defeating Harbor Day, 2-0, in the boys’ third- and fourth-grade silver division final.
On a team with a wealth of talent, one player, Bennett Penticuff, provided all the scoring for Mariners Christian. Penticuff recorded goals early in the first and second halves.
That’s all Mariners Christian needed to claim the title as it became the only side to beat and shut out Harbor Day during the six-day tournament. Mariners Christian finished with a 5-0 record and three shutouts.
Heading into the finale, Mariners Christian averaged seven goals per contest. Co-coaches Scott Smith and Dave Dahlke had all the firepower with Joel Smith, Rusty Dahlke, Hudson Bond, Hudson Delorme and Penticuff.
But at the start, Harbor Day created the most scoring chances. The first was when Max Lane crossed it to a racing Danny Geary, who tried to tap the ball in, barely missing the inside post.
Six minutes later, on a corner kick, Harbor Day’s Jackson McKinney sent a ball deep into the box. A couple of his teammates struck the ball toward the goal, but Mariners Christian goalkeeper Gavin Van Mil was there to kick the ball away.
Van Mil had to protect the goal on another corner kick. He did and Mariners Christian quickly counterattacked.
Van Mil got rid of the ball, and then Dahlke found the speedy Penticuff in stride. Penticuff never slowed down, dribbling past defenders en route to a breakaway goal in the 10th minute.
Out of his two goals, Penticuff said he was most proud of the first. It involved a lot of running.
Lane used his wheels to almost even the match in the 20th minute.
On a loose ball traveling into the box, Lane beat Van Mil to it and he appeared to have a goal, until Camden Accardy showed up on the doorstep of the goal. Accardy hustled and booted the ball away before it crossed the goal line.
Accardy’s play proved to be big because it stopped yet another Harbor Day attack. Harbor Day didn’t quit pushing the ball forward. Liam Razmjoo found Aiden Fischbien with a nice pass in the box, but Fischbien couldn’t finish the play.
The missed opportunities cost Harbor Day. The team almost went down by two goals right before halftime.
Dahlke found a crack and slipped into the box, setting up a possible one-on-one situation with Harbor Day keeper Quinn Welton. It didn’t happen then because a defender took Dahlke down from behind, giving Mariners Christian a penalty kick.
Dahlke got another shot at Welton as he took the PK. Dahlke was unlucky when his ball struck the crossbar and came back out.
Dahlke couldn’t believe it.
Early in the second half, Dahlke’s day at the tournament was almost done. His father, Dave, said Dahlke knocked knees with a defender.
Dahlke stayed in, and four minutes later, Mariners Christian went ahead, 2-0.
The scoring play began from near midfield, where Bond passed the ball to Smith, who gave it back to Bond. Bond broke free, beating defenders before crossing the ball to Penticuff near the opponent’s sideline.
Penticuff tracked the ball down and motored his way toward the goal. He unleashed a shot toward the far post to give Mariners Christian a two-goal lead in the 33rd minute.
Seventeen minutes remained in the championship match. Seventeen minutes until it was Mariners Christian’s turn to jump around and make noise for winning the title.