Tolleson certainly was no underdog by way of its No. 5 seed in the 6A boys state soccer tournament when it began last week. But the perception of the unbeaten Wolverines seemed to be a team not as good as its 19-0 record due to a weak schedule.
Three teams have found out otherwise and on Tuesday night it took penalty kicks for Tolleson to rally past top-seed Brophy Prep, 2-2 (4-3 PKs) in a semifinal match at Campo Verde High School.
Tolleson (20-0) advances to Saturday's noon final against Gilbert, which beat Hamilton in similar fashion 3-3 (3-0 PKs) in the late semifinal. Tolleson came from behind twice to tie and force two scoreless overtime periods. In the shootout, it came down to two saves by senior keeper Alan Cazares to give Tolleson the W. Brophy finished up 17-5-1 after a pair of two-goal wins in the first two rounds.
"Alan has been a rock for us all year," Tolleson coach Ben Andronic said. "It was a tough road for us to get to the final. Having to beat (No. 12) Chandler, (No. 4) Corona del Sol and now Brophy has been quite a path."
Tolleson converted all of its penalty kicks in the shootout against Brophy's talented keeper Wills Rice. Armando Valdez, Moises Palacios, Miguel Vasquez and Luis Uribe found the back of the net. for Tolleson in the shootout. Cazares first stop came on Brophy's third PK attempt by Deric Hall. Brophy's season ended on their fifth try as Cazares pounced on Carter Clemmensen's attempt and smothered it bringing on his delirious teammates to celebrate.
Tolleson played catch up the entire match. Brophy scored first on a corner kick in the fourth minute with Tobin Shanks finishing via an assist by Sam Tolson. Tolleson, with an improved offense this season, evened things at 1 in the 11th minute on Emmanuel Rayas' unassisted tally. That's the way the first half ended.
Clemmensen, Brophy's leading scorer, put the Broncos back in front in the 45th minute scoring off a rebound in the box. That lead was well protected until the 74th minute when Brophy fouled Tolleson in the box for a PK. Cesar Martinez was given the honors and hammered home the equalizer.
Tolleson, which lost to Brophy last season 6-1, had dropped at least its last nine meetings with Brophy dating back to 2007. Andronic credited his team's improved offense as a difference maker compared to last year's defensive-minded team. All of Tolleson's wins in postseason have been 3-2 decisions.
GILBERT 3-3 (3-0 PKS) DEFEATS HAMILTON: Gilbert goalkeeper Noah Rivera stopped the first two PKs Hamilton attempted in the shootout and after another Hamiilton miss Danny Baca planted the third and winning PK to send Gilbert (15-2-1) to the championship match.
Danny Baca scored two of Gilbert's three first-half goals and Kevin Olivarez the other to stake the Tigers to a 3-0 lead after 35 minutes of play. Hamilton then began its comeback, which didn't manifest itself in earnest until the final six minutes of regulation.
Hamilton's Patrick Zupic scored in the 37th minute to offer Hamilton some hope just before intermission. The teams played to a standoff until the Blake Lynch scored in the 74th minutes and Josh Drack tied it with a PK in the 79th minute. That was an eerily familiar scenario from last year that saw Hamitlon (18-4-1) take the state title from Gilbert with two goals in the final nine minutes.
The ending, however, was different this time with Robby Baca, Michael Johannson and Danny Baca converting on consecutive PKs while Hamilton failed on its first three attempts.
Saturday's title match will be Gilbert's fourth in school history. The Tigers shared a title in 2004 with Salpointe, lost to Highland in 2007 and to Hamilton in 2016.