WINNEMUCCA — The Elko boys soccer team — after giving up and early lead and facing a fiery, competitive Douglas squad — scored a pair of unanswered goals in the Division 3A North regional semifinal.
The Indians came from behind and booked a berth in the 3A state tournament with a 2-1 victory Friday over the Tigers.
Douglas created the first scoring opportunities, senior David Fausto firing the first threat — Elko senior goalkeeper Eric Azcue laying out for a tip and forcing the shot wide to the left.
Senior Juan Zabala pushed a direct kick wide as well, and junior Langston Bonafide volleyed a shot wide to the right for the Indians off a direct kick by sophomore Marcos Carlos.
In the Douglas box, a huge collision occurred — a Tiger defender wiping out his own goalie.
Elko senior Freddy Cervantes sent a kick high over and the frame on a throw-in by senior OC Orozco.
Douglas drew first blood on the board in the 15th minute.
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From a pass on the right wing, senior Hardy Leikenes body the ball multiple times and pushed through contact – crossing a goal from the left edge to the opposite-right post for a 1-0 lead.
Douglas missed a direct kick wide to the right from the left wing, and Azcue made a nice save with a leaping grab on a booming goal kick by the Tigers’ keeper.
The Tigers were called for a foul between the box and midfield from the left side, and sophomore Nico Avila dropped the direct kick back to Cervantes — who pushed his try high and off the football upright.
For Douglas, senior Jeremy Estrada drifted an attempt wide to the right on a direct kick and Elko was called for a foul in the box.
In the 22nd minute, the Indians dodged a major bullet.
On the penalty kick, Zabala banged his boot off the crossbar — the ball going out of bounds.
In the 26th minute, Elko pulled even.
Senior defender Spenser Jones kept possession alive with a series of hustle plays and a bicycle save along the sideline.
The ball worked back across the field to Carlos, who earned a corner kick.
From the flag, Carlos’ kick was bounced around in the box — Orozco following a series of deflections with the game-tying score.
Toward the end of the half, Douglas won the bulk of the possession — Elko creating some corner kicks and a few direct kicks, all of which came up empty.
Azcue kept the game a draw with a series of solid stops in the frame, stuffing attempts by senior Joseph Guariglia and a direct kick with a leaping tip — also surviving a corner kick.
The action was intense, the game going to the half as a 1-1 tie.
The Tigers continued to make Elko chase with short, clean passes after the break.
Fausto pounded a shot that sailed over the frame, but Elko nearly took the lead on a foul against Cervantes just outside the 18-yard box.
Carlos drove a low kick but missed just slightly wide to the left.
After a missed kick on the defensive end by the Indians, Guariglia appeared to have a wide-open breakaway toward a one-on-one with Azcue — senior sweeper Miguel Abarca flying in from nowhere for an incredible slide tackle.
Fausto took a shot from the left side and put the ball on target to the right edge of the frame, but Azcue laid out for a tip beyond the goal line.
Douglas’ ensuing corner kick went over everyone and out of bounds to the other side of the field.
Avila created a scoring chance for the Indians with a gorgeous diagonal pass ahead of the pack to Bonafide, but the Tigers’ keeper came forward for a last-second slide and scoop.
The Indians continued to scratch and claw, finally breaking through for their first lead in the 69th minute.
On a pass down the right sideline, sophomore Leo Pulgar settled the ball and won possession — beating his defender for a cross into the box — where Elko got off a shot that was batted down by the goalie.
However, the Tigers were called for a handball in the box — resulting in a penalty kick.
Avila striped his try in the lower-right side of the net for a 2-1 advantage.
Elko survived a corner kick with everyone crashing the ball for Douglas, leaving nothing but green ahead of Pulgar — who drove the virtual length of the field and crossed a pass to Avila on the left wing.
His shot was on point but knocked down and grabbed by the keeper.
The duo continued to apply pressure and pass well to each other, creating another scoring chance — effectively eating valuable clock in the process.
When challenged with adversity, the Tiger crumbled late — committing a multitude of fouls and earning numerous cards.
Toward the very end of the match, the Indians gained a free kick after a Douglas high kick — Avila dropping the ball back to Cervantes.
The kick missed to the left, but the whistle sounded immediately after — Elko booking a trip to state and a spot in the regional championship.
The Indians will play McQueen in the regional final at 10 a.m. Saturday, in Winnemucca.