Two minutes and 47 seconds is all it took for the Cedar Redmen to find the back of the net in their 3A semifinal match against the Region 9 champion Pine View Panthers Friday afternoon.
The Redmen did not relent in the following moments, as they struck again four minutes later, building a lead large enough to sustain them through the end whistle.
The Panthers found one goal in the first half, but the score was bookended by two more from the Redmen, who went on to win, 4-1, and secure themselves a trip to the 3A finals at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday at 11 a.m.
“Being able to go to Rio Tinto’s been a dream since freshman year,” said Brock Shipp, who scored the game’s first goal.
From the kickoff, Cedar followed the breeze toward the Pine View net. Then Michael Briano took advantage of a throw-in, deep in the Panthers’ defensive third.
“I saw that their defense wasn’t really set up in the box, and I knew I could throw it far enough, and I knew Brock could get on it,” Briano said of the game’s first goal.
Briano’s ball ran along, parallel to the six-yard box as Shipp trailed it.
“It bounced over their defender’s head, luckily, and I just smashed it passed the goalie,” Shipp said. “I didn’t want him to block it, so I hit it as hard as I could.
“It’s just like slow motion. Everything’s just going slow; make sure you hit it in the net.”
Shipp scored and threw an uppercut into the sky.
Then, minutes later, Briano held possession around the 30-yard line with just a pair of defenders to beat. Briano opted to go through the defense rather than around it, though they resisted.
The Pine View defenders tugged at him, but he would not go down. Then from inside the 18-yard line, Briano fired.
“They’re not just going to give away PKs in the playoffs, especially the semifinals, so I was like, ‘I know I can finish this. He’s ripping me down, but I can hit it,'” Briano said. “So I took a shot, hit it to the right of the goalie, and got that goal.”
Michael Wade brought the Panthers to within one, in the 14th minute on a ball from Michael Cardenas. Wade beat one defender and sent the ball opposite of Cedar goalkeeper Court Einfeldt.
Midway through the second half, the Pine View fans and players started looking to the scoreboard as if they expected something to change.
Then in the 35th minute, it did — but for the region champs, things changed for the worse.
Cedar’s Matt Allen just missed a shot, but it deflected back out to where Marashal Lunt stood, waiting to strike. Lunt rebounded the ball and drove in the shot to double the Redmen’s lead.
“We’ve been finishing real, real well,” Cedar head coach Scott Kamachi said. “We’ve been finishing better, obviously, today and the last couple of games.”
Kamachi’s team has scored seven goals thus far in the playoffs, while giving up just two.
Cedar’s fourth and final goal came from the foot of Allen, who volleyed in a cross from Shipp on a set piece down near the corner.
“It was tense, but once we got moving, got that early goal, we just started playing our game,” Shipp said. “We had the early lead, and that just gave us the edge on them.”
For the first time all year, the Redmen defeated the Panthers, and in doing so, secured a trip to the final match against Dixie, who defeated the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle in the second semifinal of the day.