GRANITE BAY — Had it not been for four minutes in purgatory early in the game, Davis High’s boys soccer squad might still be playing this fall.
But credit the home-standing Grizzlies for throwing five early shots at the Blue Devils — scoring on two of them and just missing on the other three — for a 3-1 Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal playoff victory on Wednesday afternoon.
Granite Bay was playing without its high-profile Thompson brothers, but didn’t miss a beat as junior midfielder Dominic Scotti wreaked havoc.
Before the Grizzlies went off, defending section champion DHS looked loaded for bear after the opening kickoff.
Early on, Rami Rashmawi and Jacob Rutheiser made slick defensive plays for the Devils, and Davis midfielder Alex Herman fired a warning shot across The Bay’s net.
But at 3:31, GBHS’ Charlie Gunn dribbled down the right sideline, crossed to Felipe Zagarra and, just like that, Zagarra’s header made it 1-0.
Twenty seconds later, Grizzly Zach Boyle intercepted a Blue Devil pass and set up two dandy shots for Scotti (hit the right post) and Zagarra (drilled right at a prone Derek Pleasants, who made a courageous collection).
A minute later, Rutheiser was called for a curious trip in the box, and Scotti converted the penalty kick.
“You could say it was a controversial call,” said interim DHS coach Alex Park, adding that his team never quit but that falling behind was problematic.
The Grizzlies (20-3-1) almost got another score less than 30 seconds later …
Scotti (who else?) broke open in front of Pleasants, but his point-blank attempt was redirected by Herman. A long serve into the box off the rebound again required quick action from Davis, resulting in a Granite Bay corner kick.
On Gunn’s corner, Rashmawi streaked in front of a waiting Zagarra to end yet another threat and the game simmered into back-and-forth action until the 24th minute.
Scotti, subbing for Tanner Thompson (out with a knee injury), danced with the ball at the top of the Devil box for what seemed like 10 seconds. Suddenly he shuffled it to Zagarra, who two-touched the sphere to his left and let fly with Granite Bay’s third goal.
While the three-time D-II section champions kept pressure on the locals, from this point out, DHS would outshoot its host, 12-4.
Right after intermission, Blue Devil Kian Bagheri took a smooth pass from D.J. Villegas but his rocket launch from 22 yards out sailed high. Minutes later, Rutheiser found Bagheri again. The senior tri-captain smashed a left-footer off goalie Andrew Erbland, but the loose ball was easily recaptured as no locals had crashed the net.
Alex Raya and Herman continued to keep the ball available for Davis approaches, but it wasn’t until the waning moments of the game that the Devils began to get good looks.
DHS’ Lee LeVerrier had two strong shots, but to no avail. An earth-shaking collision with Ash Gunn near midfield and another hard confrontation on defense provided some late-game electricity from LeVerrier.
He smacked a fastball right at Erbland but no goal, then went one-on-one with the Grizzly netminder (getting stuffed on a nice sliding stop by Erbland).
At 75:42, LeVerrier’s next attempt was turned into a deflected floater that finally found the net for Davis’ sole goal.
Packed back on defense since the 60-minute mark, Granite Bay still had to survive three more Blue Devil shots before two minutes of stoppage time signaled the end of DHS’ eventful 2012.
Several weeks before the Devils’ first contest, longtime coach Ashley Yudin suddenly hung it up. Park — the accomplished junior varsity coach — was hired in emergency mode.
Davis started slowly with only five wins in its first 10 games.
But after that, the Blue Devils went 9-1-3 until Wednesday.
Raya, Herman and Park weighed in on what the season meant to each …
“What do I take away from this year,” Raya repeated a question. “Heart. Just heart. I think we gave everything we had … Yes, it was a disappointing game, but with everything we’ve gone through — (we took) away heart. We never gave up.”
Herman, who missed his sophomore season with a hamstring injury, said 2012 “meant everything to me.”
“The friendships I’ve made on this team, (they’re) not fake. Everything you hear about our team is true: We have these friendships.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Herman said, adding praise for Park in “helping bringing us all together.”
Park says his initial reaction at being asked to take over varsity on such short notice was all over the map …
“My initial thought was big shoes to fill, big season ahead, kind of a shocker — all of the above,” Park told The Enterprise after congratulating his guys on a 15-5-5 season. “Trying to put everything Ashley learned over the years into one week was incredible.
“Having Ashley there with me every day, almost every hour … I called Ashley about a thousand times. He was always there for me throughout the season.
“And you couldn’t ask for a better team: They gave 100 percent … and (Wednesday) again they gave everything they had.”
Notes: Granite Bay’s Tommy Thompson (foot) is expected back by Saturday’s finale with Jesuit, ranked No. 3 nationally. Brother Tanner is questionable. … Pleasants made several leaping closeouts of Grizzly attacks and was instrumental in keeping things from getting completely out of hand during Granite Bay’s early barrage. … Park, whose team was still firing away at the end, finished the game with all 11 seniors on the pitch. … Zaggara missed a hat trick when his second-half “goal” was nullified by an offside call.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.