By BRETT MARSHALL
After going toe-to-toe for 98 minutes, it was by the narrowest of margins that Derby's Julios Vielmas that brought the Garden City Buffaloes boys soccer season to a sudden close with a 4-3 double-overtime win on Thursday night at Buffalo Stadium in a Class 6A South Central regional championship game.
With the game knotted at three and the second 10-minute sudden-death period ticking down to the end, Derby got a corner kick that sailed to the far side of Garden's goal, where Marcus McKee attempted a header that was blocked. In the melee around the goal, somehow, miraculously in all likelihood, Vielmas found the ball and squeezed his kick into the left edge of the goal past Garden goalkeeper Carlos Luquin.
It brought a heartbreaking end to what had been a glittering season for the Buffs. They finish at 15-3-0, one of the best seasons in school history, and went undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference. Derby moves on to the state quarterfinals on Tuesday against an opponent to be determined by other playoff games on Thursday night. Pairings for that were to be announced today.
This game will likely be remembered for how well the two teams clicked offensively in the opening 40 minutes, where the game was tied at 3 at intermission. It will then be remembered for a tough, hard-nosed defensive battle in the second half, where both teams got superb play from their goalkeepers — Luquin for the Buffaloes and Edgar Vaquera for the Panthers. Between the two, they recorded 23 saves — Luquin with 10 and Vaquera with 13, many of the spectacular diving kind.
"We knew once it got to overtime, it was just a matter of who scored the one goal," Garden coach Joaquin Padilla said afterward. "We missed many scoring opportunities, but I thought the boys played hard. It's hard to see it come to an end for this group of seniors. They fought all the way to the end."
Derby coach Paul Burke, in his first year as the head of the Panthers, said the final play that resulted in the winning shot, is something that his team has successfully used in posting a 13-5-0 record to reach the elite eight round of the playoffs.
"We're good in the air around the net," Burke said. "We have some good height there and we have used it to our advantage in other games, and it helped in this one. It was a wild game. I thought after the first half, that it might be a 7-6 kind of game. We were hoping to slow the pace down in the second half, and I think we were able to just keep putting pressure on there at the end, and it finally paid off. Garden's got a terrific team and we're fortunate to come out of here with the win."
Each team had four corner kicks during the game, and in two of the other three by Derby, Luquin had managed to go airborn and snatch the ball away from Derby's forwards.
"Derby's a good team, and when you get to this level, every team is about the same," Padilla said. "I thought their goalkeeper gave them a big lift in the first half when some of the shots we attempted didn't get by him. He's about the best we've seen this year. He was probably the key to their win."
The first half was nothing short of a shootout at the OK Corral.
Derby got on the board first with a Clayton Matzen goal, taking an assist from Alan Flores in the 13th minute.
Then, it was the Buffaloes' turn on the offensive end, getting a pair of Barragan goals, both unassisted, the first in the 16th minute and the second in the 21st minute, providing Garden with a brief, 2-1, advantage.
Back came the Panthers with two goals in a span of three minutes to go up, 3-2. The first of the pair came from Herman Vielmas on a rebound shot that came after a miss by Flores to tie the score.
Then it was Flores, a thorn in the side of the Buffs all night, who beat Luquin from the left side of the goal box, that put the Panthers up again.
In the back-and-forth battle, sophomore Barragan, who seemingly was not to be denied, scored on a penalty kick after a tripping penalty against Derby's Austin Swindler was called. He rifled the shot into the low left side of the net, beating Vaquera in the 31st minute.
"After their first goal, I just tried to go hard and find the open place," Barragan said. "We knew it would be a hard game. Their defense got a lot better in the second half and so did ours. It was just a tough game. I really thought it was one of the best games we've played and that's what makes it so hard."
For the Buffs, the game was the final for 16 seniors. Six underclassmen, three sophomores and three juniors, will be the nucleus of the 2013 team.
Derby 3 0 0 1 -- 4
Garden City 3 0 0 0 -- 3
D--Clayton Matzen, assist Alan Flores, 13th minute.
GC--Erik Barragan, unassisted, 16th minute.
GC--Erik Barragan, unassisted, 21st minute.
D--Herman Vielmas, off rebound Alan Flores, 21st minute.
D--Alan Fores, assist Julios Vielmas, 24th minute.
GC--Erik Barragan, penalty kick, 31st minute.
D--Julios Vielmas, assist Marcus McKee, 98th minute.
Shots--Derby 25, Garden City 26. Goalkeepers--Derby (Edgar Vaquera), Garden City (Carlos Luquin) . Saves--Vaquera 13, Luquin 10. Corner kicks--Derby 4 Garden City 4. Penalties--Derby (Herman Vielmas, yellow), Garden City (none).