Second-seeded Scottsdale Coronado had come one win short of the prize for two straight years.
“New coach, new players, we get hyped before every game, we just worked hard,” junior Miguel Gonzalez said.
Using its usual relentless attack, and maybe exorcising some demons, Coronado finally got its first soccer title in school history.
Coronado (16-3-1) scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half to open up a tight match on their way to a 3-1 win Friday in the Division III championship match at Gilbert Campo Verde over No. 13 Northwest Christian.
“Perfect for us,” Coronado coach Nick Barker said. “Congratulations to Northwest Christian on a phenomenal run. We are so happy. This is a good day for Coronado soccer. This is a great day for Coronado High School.”
Coronado had lost to Cortez in the state final the last two seasons.
In the 44th minute, Miguel Gonzalez outran the defense to get a clear punch over Northwest Christian goalkeeper Ian Maddox to give Coronado a 2-1 lead. Then, five minutes later Gonzalez looked like he would score again, getting past Maddox inside the 6-yard box but Sam Temple blocked the shot near the line. On the subsequent corner kick, Gonzalez found Cristian Gonzalez at the far post and he headed it in for a 3-0 lead.
Northwest Christian (12-11) finally converted a set piece in the 53rd minute to get within 3-1. Scott Martin knocked it in off a Cody Fullerton throw-in.
“This is the most skilled team in the state,” Northwest Christian coach Jeff Penzone said of Coronado. “They move the ball very well. They have some savvy players, but we didn’t fold on these guys.”
Coronado dominated possession much of the night but didn’t get a lot of clear shots at goal with the Northwest Christian defense holding its own in the first half.
In the 19th minute, Ruben Balverde found Miguel Gonzalez in the box and although Maddox looked to cover the ball, Gonzalez somehow put the ball in the net to give Coronado a 1-0 lead.
Miguez Gonzalez and Cristian Gonzalez (no relation) played off each other as they have all season but couldn’t get a quality opportunity in the first half.
Northwest Christian, missing its defensive catalyst Justin Johnson, had few chances in the first half and couldn’t convert its set piece with Fullerton’s throw-in into the box.
Northwest Christian was a giant killer by eliminating two-time defending champ Phoenix Cortez in the quarterfinals on a late goal by Johnson, a long-ball specialist.
But in Northwest Christian’s second straight late rally win, a 3-2 overtime affair on Tuesday against Tucson Amphitheater, Johnson was red-carded with 11 minutes left in regulation.
Coronado has used a powerful offensive attack, keyed by superior ball-handling and possession, to outscore its opponents 130-12 this season.
That continued in the postseason with Coronado outscoring its opponents 15-3.
It was Northwest Christian’s first appearance in a state final since winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, when the small schools were split into fall and winter seasons.