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ALBUQUERQUE — After slugging it out for nearly an hour and a half, the Los Alamos-Chaparral boys soccer semifinal was decided by a penalty kick.
The two teams duked it out in an exciting, back-and-forth battle for the right to advance to the Class 4A championship game, but the game was decided in anticlimactic fashion.
In the 87th minute, Chaparral’s outstanding forward Jesus Ramos was grabbed and held in the penalty box. Chaparral’s Edgar Lopez had no trouble converting the ensuing penalty kick to knock the Hilltoppers out of the 2012 state playoffs.
Friday’s loss at the Albuquerque Public Schools Soccer Complex was an unfortunate ending to what had been one of the best games of the Hilltoppers’ season.
Los Alamos, the No. 3 seed in the 4A playoffs, had high hopes to get back to the state finale for the second time in three seasons. After a 2-1 win Thursday over a scrappy Los Lunas squad Thursday, the Hilltoppers came into Friday’s semifinal fired up.
Unfortunately, the Hilltoppers had trouble in the first half getting their passing game under control. Playing with a breeze at their backs, many of the Hilltoppers passes went long, resulting in turnovers.
Los Alamos (14-8) forced the issue, keeping the ball inside Chaparral territory, but didn’t have much to show for it. The two teams combined for only three shots in the first half.
Both teams, however, cranked up the offensive pressure in the second half.
The Lobos, led by Ramos and Adrian Espinoza, peppered the goal early in the half, with Espinoza banging a bullet right-footed shot from 30 yards out off the left post.
Los Alamos, however, got a good counterattack going in the second half and fired off seven shots, six of them on goal.
In the 65th minute, the Hilltoppers scored an apparent goal from the top of the penalty box, but the goal was waved off due to a pushing foul just prior to the kick.
Chaparral, a largely unknown quantity coming into Friday, showed both a disciplined passing game and very good quick-strike capability. Ramos’ dribbling skills created problems for the Hilltopper defense throughout.
Los Alamos’ defense was stout throughout its two games, however. Cameron Wilson came up big against both Los Lunas and Chaparral on the back third, shoring up a defense that gave up just five goals since Oct. 5.
The Lobos advanced to play the defending champion Farmington Scorpions, who held off the Capital Jaguars in the other semifinal.
Chaparral capped off an outstanding 2012 by nipping defending champion Farmington 1-0 in Saturday's state title game.
The semifinal loss ended the careers of a solid Hilltopper senior class, including midfielder Henry Steinkamp, the team’s most important cog for the last two years and the Hilltoppers’ top point-getter in 2012.
Other Hilltoppers wrapping up their careers Friday included Wilson, Dallin Parker, Ryan Maestas, Rohun Iyer, Nick Thoma, Kevin Gao, Ben Stewart, Michael Maestas, Cooper Christensen, Gabriel Montoya, Zayne Walterscheid and Brady Stokes.