Hueneme continues historic season with win in playoff opener

Foot Play | © Tiffany israel/OUHSD
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© Tiffany israel/OUHSD
© Tiffany israel/OUHSD

It didn’t take long for the Hueneme High boys’ soccer team to punctuate its historic regular season with a storybook postseason moment.

Mere seconds into overtime, senior captain Alex Garcia earned a free kick with a rampaging run through the midfield, then stepped up to laser a 25-yard free kick into the upper-left corner of the net.

The golden goal lifted fourth-seeded Hueneme past visiting Eastside of Lancaster, 1-0, Friday afternoon in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.

Hueneme (12-1-2), the Pacific View League champion, advances to face either Cabrillo or Notre Vista in Wednesday’s second round.

The flurry, which followed 90 minutes of rain-soaked, windblown chances, came just seconds after the referee reminded both teams of the sudden-death format.

Hueneme won the coin flip, elected to play with the wind at its back and Garcia followed with the type of grand finale that little boys spend childhoods reenacting in parks around the world.

“It took a moment for me to realize it,” said Garcia, who disappeared under a pile of teammates in the celebration.

Minutes after the game had ended, Garcia was still trying to wrap his mind around the moment.

“I’m still thinking about it,” said Garcia.

“It’s the dream,” interrupted defender Orlando Rodriguez.

Garcia, who doesn’t even take free kicks for the Vikings (that role is usually reserved for stylish senior Gustavo Navarro), just decided to take the game by the scruff of its neck.

“I just knew I wanted that kick,” said Garcia. “I just wanted my chance at it.”

Ironically, in a season that Hueneme started by going unbeaten for the first 12 games, the victory halts the Vikings’ two-game winless streak.

Although several Hueneme players said that the 1-0 home loss to Channel Islands Feb. 3 was a key component to a strong postseason start.

“We were strong throughout the game,” said Rodriguez. “We would have been under a lot more pressure if we were still undefeated The loss released that pressure.”Instead, the Vikings returned to their previous form.

“This was the best game we’ve played since Christmas,” said Hueneme coach Tuck Engelmann.

Despite the scoreless 90 minutes, the two teams created plenty of chances. Navarro repeatedly got loose down the right wing to send cross after cross into the Eastside penalty area.

Although it struggled to create chances from play, Eastside, with the gusting 30-mile per hour winds at its back, threatened to score with every corner kick in the second half.

“It was very difficult,” said Hueneme goalkeeper Nestor Mercado.

“The wind added 10 feet to the bend,” said Engelmann.

Mercado’s moment came in the 47th minute when he saved a pair of Eastside chances, one at each post, in the same wild scramble.

“One with my foot, then the other with my left hand,” said Mercado.

The scrambling scene was the embodiment of Engelmann’s postgame speech to his victorious Vikings.

“Whatever it takes,” said Engelmann. “Remember what we did today.”

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