PHOENIX - The seven seniors on Northwest Christian boys soccer team do not have to ask "what if?" anymore.
Each of their first three years, the Crusaders went one round further in the 3A playoffs, finishing with a semifinal loss to ALA-Gilbert North. Now, the senior and other returning players no longer need to wonder.
Tuesday afternoon #5 Northwest Christian controlled its semifinal against #9 Thatcher, winning 3-0 at Central High School in Phoenix. Two goals in the final six minutes clinched the Crusaders' first state final bid since 2019.
"It was a special day for all of them," Northwest Christian assistant coach Jason Stevens said. "I could not begin to tell you how much this means to them. I heard so many of the 'well if we only could have's.' Now it comes to fruition and we find out who we go against and give them heck."
Stevens was filling in for head coach Jeremy Witt, who had a family matter to attend to.
Northwest Christian plays #2 Phoenix Country Day for the 3A title at 4:30 Saturday at Westwood High School in Mesa.
The Eagles were the last team to beat Northwest Christian, by a 1-0 score Jan. 13 in Paradise Valley. Since then, the Crusaders have won eight straight games and conceded only two games total.
"We started off the season a little rough but then we figured it out over time. It's gotten a lot better and we're going to keep improving," senior Andrew Mayer said.
Mayer scored the only goal of the first half, eventually.
"I got the ball off a throw in at about the 30 yard line and I went past a couple kids and dribbled all the way into the box and I was tripped up from behind. So I got a PK and at this point hit was pouring. I hit the first PK and the keeper saved it but he encroached, meaning he came off the line. So I had a redo and finished that one," Mayer said.
He also scored the goal that put the game away in the 75th minute. Senior Noah Greeley added a rocket from about 40 yards out in the 78th minute to top it off.
Stevens credited the play of senior midfielder Lucas Gauharou, as well as freshman center back Nathan Johannes and Malachi Huisman.
A Dysart soccer player waits to head a ball deep in his territory as Moon Valley players move up in attack. (Richard Smith/West Valley Preps).
Dysart 4, Moon Valley 2
Later that night, visiting #12 Dysart scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to knock off #5 Moon Valley 4-2.
The Rockets grabbed a 1-0 lead early, and Dysart coach Jose Partida said the home team had the run of play in the first half.
"At halftime, the first thing I have them tell me what they're seeing. When I do that we get better feedback and they hearing it from their peers," Patrida said. "They were outplaying us, basically. They were beating us to the ball. They were hungry and they had to fix it."
The Demons grabbed a 2-1 lead in the first seven minutes of the second half. Johann Vargas Sanchez tied the game on a penalty kick, and freshman Jaden Evans scored the second goal.
"We had a different attitude, a different mentality. We're used to being down," Sanchez said. "Our best performance is always in the second half. We don't crack under pressure."
Moon Valley senior Hugo Huitzil scored the game tying goal in the 64th minute, to an eruption in the stands.
The Demons regrouped and attacked the net in the 72nd minute. Sanchez used his knee to poke in a rebound that turned out to be a decisive score.
"I was expecting the shot on goal and the keeper to block it. But he did have a little trouble with the shot and I knew what he was doing. It was a blessing to score that goal," Sanchez said.
The final minutes were chippy and mostly played with Dysart attacking in Moon Valley's end.
In the closing seconds a Moon Valley player knocked down a Dysart player, who got up and retalliated with a shove. The Moon Valley goalkeeper ran out of his net toward the scuffle and senior midfielder Oscar Mendez lobbed the ball over his head into the goal just before the buzzer sounded.
"We had about five starters sitting on the bench the last 20 minutes. It was just that desire. The way we train everybody plays together, that's the expectation. I was so happy for the backups that came in and played," Partida said.
Dysart (16-5-1) hits the road again Saturday, playing at #4 Arizona College Prep (19-4) at 2 p.m. in Chandler.
"We fight and keep on pushing, whether it's a good ass team like we played or an even greater team like we played later, we just push and we fight," Sanchez said.
Richard Smith Associate Editor | Surprise and West Valley Preps @rsmithYWV
Richard Smith has been with Independent Newsmedia since 2016, and worked at a Sun City-based news outfit covering the Northwest Valley for 22 consecutive years.
An NAU alum and lifelong Arizona resident, Richard began as a copy editor and page designer at Surprise Today and the Daily News-Sun, then rekindled his love of sports writing by taking the reins on West Valley Preps in 2008.
For most of the mid-2010s he was the Surprise editor and West Valley Preps reporter. Now he’s the West Valley Preps Editor and Surprise Associate Editor.
As COVID restrictions slowly lift, Richard is cautiously optimistic he will visit book stores, football fields and gyms again this fall.