Foothill High School’s much improved defense, roster depth, and high pressure tactics at both ends of the field, proved to be too much for San Clemente High School in the first Southern Division semi-finals game on Saturday. When these two teams met in March, Foothill won a 17-16 shootout. This time the Knights cut the Tritons offensive output in half en route to a 13-8 win. The win put Foothill in the South Division Finals for the first time since 2011.
Not that it was any secret, but Foothill’s strategy became apparent from the opening whistle. Whether it be on offense, defense, riding, or clearing: pressure, pressure, pressure. In what became a familiar sight as the game progressed, <strong>Austin Babb</strong> controlled the opening faceoff to give Foothill a possession. The ball quickly found its way to <strong>Nate Marano</strong> coming out of the box. Marano went right to the cage, worked his way underneath the defenese, and finished on the crease to make it 1-0 Foothill in the first minute.
Babb won the ensuing faceoff, and the Knights went back on the attack. A couple of nice saves by <strong>Austin Boyer</strong> kept his teammates close before <strong>Colin Zines</strong> got behind the Foothill defense and tied the game 1-1 at the 8:38 mark. Boyer continued to make big saves throughout the quarter but he could do only so much, <strong>Kevin Kodzis</strong> and <strong>Ryan Falbo</strong> collaborated on a pair of goals, and <strong>Jake Haigh</strong> got a running rip past Boyer to close out the first quarter 4-1.
Foothill opened the second quarter with a <strong>Nick Matzek</strong> down-the-alley, high-to-high rip and Marano’s second goal, another high-to-high rip, in the first three minutes to put San Clemente in a 6-1 hole.
Some mid second quarter penalties to both teams seemed to interrupt the Foothill offensive flow, and San Clemente’s offense started to play more like San Clemente’s offense and put more pressure on goalie <strong>Ryan Blank</strong>. <strong>Peyton Garrett</strong> finally got the Tritons on the board for the second time when he came out of the box after serving a two-minute non-releasable and scored one of his patented high to high rips from about 10 yards out at the 5:34 of the second.
Garrett’s goal energized the San Clemente bench and fans, but Babb won another face-off to slow down any momentum that the Tritons might be counting on to give the Knights another possession. The two teams battled back and forth before <strong>Drew Boyd</strong> found an open Matzek on the backside with 0:41 seconds left in the half. Matzek went low to high to make it 7-2 Foothill at half time.
Foothill continued to score and Falbo continued to dish out assists to open the second half. Matzek and Marano both completed hat tricks on assists from Falbo to make 9-2 Foothill. A one-minute non-releasable to <strong>Warren Case</strong> for an illegal stick gave San Clemente some hope for a comeback, and the Tritons took advantage. <strong>Austin Streeter</strong> scored on high to low bouncer 30 seconds after Marano’s goal, assisted on a J<strong>ack Renard</strong> goal, and scored again to make 9-5 with 1:05 left in the third. Hoping to get one more back before the quarter ended, the Tritons defense pressed out on Warren Case as he carried the ball at midfield. Case remained composed under the pressure, worked his way through a triple team, and found Falbo open on the back side. Falbo buried a momentum-deflating goal to make it 10-5 with 0:24 left in the third.
Marano scored his fourth goal at 9:53 of the fourth to make it 11-5 before goals by Renard and Garrett brought the Tritons close again at 11-7 with 8 minutes to go. Goals by Kodzis (assist from Matzek), Case, and Streeter completed the scoring at 13-8 Foothill.