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Down twice by two goals in the second half, the host Hunt High varsity boys soccer team dominated the pair of five-minute overtimes and stormed to a 6-4 3-A Big East Conference victory against Southern Nash on Monday evening.
The Warriors of first-year head coach Phil Long trailed 2-0 and 4-2 before forcing the extra sessions with two goals in the final eight-plus minutes of regulation.
The fourth consecutive win vaulted Hunt to 4-6-2 in all matches and kept it tied with archrival Fike for the conference lead at 3-0. The Firebirds dipped to 3-7-2 and 1-2, respectively.
“We knew this was going to be evenly matched and was going to be a grind,” Long remarked. “This is not the best we have played and it was not pretty. But what’s exciting is that we were able to win ugly.”
Nonetheless, the Warriors were quick to celebrate the comeback led by a hat trick from junior Danile Mondragon.
In the first overtime, Mondragon completed the hat trick by weaving his way past Firebirds defenders and cranking a close-range shot past Southern Nash goalkeeper Alejandro Ledezma, a sophomore. Slightly over a minute had elapsed.
Then in the second overtime, freshman Julian Hernandez drilled an insurance goal with 2:11 showing.
Most eventful the rest of the way was Southern Nash junior Brian Cuevas being red-carded.
“We stopped playing,” lamented Southern Nash head coach Carlos Barron. “Consistence has been an issue the entire year. We try to work through certain things.
“But give credit to Hunt. They picked it up, played fast, played simple and got it into the net. They were a fast team tonight.”
Southern Nash bolted to a 2-0 halftime lead on a goal each from junior Alexis Arroyo and strong-footed junior Adolfo Gonzalez. The Firebirds missed an excellent opportunity to claim a 3-0 lead when freshman Hunt keeper David Aranda smothered senior Carlos Garcia’s penalty kick.
Hunt whittled the deficit to 2-1 with just over 10 minutes elapsed into the second half. Alex Cruz ripped a shot that Max Sahtes rebounded. The ball wound up in the net when two Southern Nash defenders tangled and the ball deflected off one of them and into the net.
Midway the second half, the Warriors evened the score at 2-2 on Mondragon’s shot to the right corner.
The Firebirds regrouped, forging a 4-2 edge in a matter of 30 seconds on a pair of assists by senior David Vazquez to Adolfo Gonzalez and Garcia. Gonzalez unleashed a missile from some 25 yards out.
But Hunt proved resilient, answering with Mondragon’s second goal and Obed Mendoza’s long-distance free kick.
“This was the best challenge we’ve had,” Mondragon exclaimed. “It was a great experience. We just worked as a team; it took a lot of teamwork to get the victory.
“At first, we put our heads down. But coach gave us a good talk and, in the second half, we picked our heads up and started working better. The second half, we started pushing harder.”
Added Long: “It did take a lot (to pull off the comeback). “It brought out a lot of character. We have been waiting for opportunities like that. And at the end of the day all you’ve got to have is a win.”
However, Barron informed his Firebirds they’re facing “gut-check time.”