LEMOORE — The Tigers scored two goals in two minutes and got help from a Bullpups own goal to finish the West Yosemite League schedule with a 3-2 victory at Tiger Stadium on Wednesday.
“I expected to do better, we didn’t play that good,” Lemoore forward Armando Salinas said. “We had opportunities we just weren’t making them. On my part I could’ve scored way more, but I just wasn’t in my right mind.”
Lemoore (14-5-2, 8-2 WYL) led 3-0 before allowing two goals in the final two minutes of regulation. They seemed to be headed to overtime, but held on for the final couple seconds to get the win.
“Our team fell apart because we were already in the mindset of winning so we got a little lazy,” Lemoore forward Jackson Fagundes said. “They scored two easy goals, which shouldn’t happen.”
Lemoore coach Eric Bow was furious with his team after the two goals and said, “It shouldn’t have happened.”
“We’re headed for playoffs, you have a 10-minute lapse like that you’re done,” Bow said. “Ten minutes of lapsing and two goals, you’re going home.”
Despite the miscues over the final 10 minutes, the Tigers dominated the rest of the match.
It was Salinas and Fagundes who scored in the 38th and 40th minutes and helped the Tigers take a 2-0 lead into halftime. The goals came after a mountain of pressure and repeated shot attempts against Hanford (2-20-1, 0-10 WYL).
The Tigers took control from the first touch and had three shots on goal in the first 12 minutes. They won 50-50 balls and held possession in the attacking third with accurate passes and good runs down the line.
Matthew Ramirez first had a chance in the 18th minute when his shot went off the post. The ball deflected back in the box where Chase Garcia’s touch sent the ball wide.
After a couple more opportunities, Logan Scammell attempted to head the ball in, but instead deflected Garcia’s throw-in to Salinas’ feet. Salinas took the shot and gave the Tigers the lead.
Two minutes later, Salinas made a run down the line and crossed the ball into the box. The Hanford backline attempted to clear the pass, but had the ball deflect off of the goalkeeper and right to Fagundes, who tapped the ball into the wide-open net.
The Tigers outshot the Bullpups 14-0 in the first half and rarely allowed their opponent into their defensive third.
Leading 2-0, the Tigers got some help when an errant pass back to the goalkeeper was too far out of his reach and led to an own goal in the 54th minute.
Lemoore continued to control the game until the final moments when Hanford midfielder Miguel Alva scored both goals for the Bullpups.
Lemoore was still in contention for a WYL championship at the beginning of the night. They needed Golden West (13-6-2, 8-1-1 WYL) to lose to El Diamante or tie and Lemoore needed to win. But the Tigers didn’t get any help as the Trailblazers won 2-1. The Tigers finish half a game behind the Trailblazers in second play in league.
The Tigers had a major improvement over last season when they went 7-4-1 in league and finished in third place.
“From last year we weren’t really playing as a team, we were ball-hogging,” Salinas said. “This year there’s more chemistry and we’re playing like a team this time.”
The Bullpups finish last in the WYL for a second consecutive season and without a league win. They have a combined three league wins over the past three seasons.
It was Senior Night for Lemoore and before the game they honored their nine seniors, which included: Christian Alvarez, Jesus Amador, Alvaro Salazar, Carlos Chavez, Armando Salinas, Jackson Fagundes, Blake Nunes, Chase Garcia and Pete Hawken.
“It feels good to get a win on my last league game and all the rest of the seniors’ last league game,” Fagundes said. “We deserved it for this season. It was a good win.”
The Tigers will prepare for the playoffs and are currently the No. 4 team in the CIF Central Section Division III rankings. If that holds, Lemoore will have a home game and could possibly get a bye.
“The big step now is to see … how far we can take it,” Bow said.