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An early first half goal may have been a big problem for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team Saturday afternoon.
But that goal might have been the worst thing that happened Saturday for the Los Lunas Tigers.
The Tigers got on the board quickly during the first round of the Class AAAA boys soccer state championship tournament, played at Sullivan Field, but things quickly took a turn for the worse for them.
“Right when they scored, I thought ‘they just woke up a beast,’” Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz said. “With our two weeks of practice, it’s been hard. I was killing myself to know what to do to keep them intense, but after that goal, we started to dominate.”
Sure enough, it came to pass.
The Hilltoppers, the fifth seed in the AAAA bracket, scored five unanswered goals following Los Lunas’ fifth-minute goal, rolling to a big 5-1 victory in the opening round.
Los Alamos scored three times in the last 12 minutes of the opening half to take a 3-1 edge at the break, then tacked on two more goals in the second half to pick up a decisive opening round victory.
It will now advance to play the Albuquerque Academy Chargers Thursday in the state quarterfinals.
The Chargers, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, received a bye into that round as a benefit of their seeding.
Hilltopper David Wyman, who scored the exclamation point goal in the 74th minute, said his team wanted to put the rest of AAAA on notice.
“We think we deserved better than a fifth seed,” Wyman said. “It was a little bit of a message. We’re not going to be an easy win. We’re here to win state.”
Los Alamos’ Andy Thoma had a hand in all but one of the team’s goals. Thoma, the team’s leading scorer throughout the regular season, put two perfectly-placed corner kicks right in front of the Los Lunas goal mouth from the left corner to help give the Hilltoppers their lead.
Thoma found Nicholas Castaño just about five yards out in the 28th minute with his second corner attempt of the game. Castaño 2-touched the ball into the goal to tie the game up at 1-1.
Then, just four minutes later, Thoma sent an arcing corner right to the head of Chase Havemann, who flicked it into the goal past a diving goalkeeper Jose Navarro.
Following the opening goal by Los Lunas, scored on a textbook touch-and-go from Levi Allen to Jorge Tarango just five minutes in, the Hilltoppers took over all areas of the field, dominating the front side and the middle and squelching what few chances Tarango had near the Hilltopper goal for the balance of the game.
“After scoring that first goal, we felt pretty confident that we had control of this game,” Castaño said. “When we went up by three, we knew we had it.”
Los Alamos held Los Lunas (10-10) without a shot for 58 minutes and outshot the Tigers 16-4.
Late in the first half, Paul Hemez scored off an assist from Dominic Lucido to give the Hilltoppers a 3-1 edge.
In the second half, Thoma scored himself in the 58th minute with Hemez assisting.
“It was great to see us come back and score goals,” Wyman said. “That first five minutes was really bad, but the seniors realized that this was our last game at home. We knew we had to come out here and win this.”