Nogales and Buena fought hard for two halves and the outcome didn’t seem certain until the last minute of last Thursday’s boys soccer matchup at Apache Stadium.
But the Buena Colts came out on top after 80 minutes with a final score of 3-2.
“It was a tough game,” said NHS Coach Armando Romero-Davis. “I think everybody put a lot of effort.”
The Colts got on the board first with 8:13 remaining in the first half as Kristopher Gentry fired a low shot that beat the NHS keeper on the right side.
But the Apaches evened things up less than a minute later on a throw-in by Gabriel Barraza. The senior midfielder has a powerful throw-in, easily reaching the box from the sideline, and had put throw-ins into the back of the net on multiple occasions this season; but a ball thrown directly into the net doesn’t count as a goal if no other player touches it.
But with 7:32 remaining in the second half on Thursday night, Barraza launched a throw-in that trickled through the Buena goalkeeper’s hands before finding the back of the net, tying the score at 1-1.
Buena took the lead again about three minutes into the second half as Sean Presnall scored on a solo break. Then Nogales hit back with 29:03 remaining on a goal by Juan Carlos Ruiz.
Both Ruiz and Barraza are seniors at NHS and were honored along with their class of 2020 teammates during a senior night celebration at halftime.
Then, with 26:44 remaining, Buena notched a goal that the Apaches couldn’t match. Gentry lined up a free kick on the right side and used it to fire a pass to Presnall, who snuck by the NHS defense and found the back of the net.
Down by one goal in the second half, NHS didn’t fold, and Romero-Davis said that’s a good sign.
Earlier in the season, he said, “we start getting down and we give up the game, (but) tonight I think the kids kept fighting and fighting and fighting.”
Nogales started playing more aggressively as the clock ticked down, pushing the ball upfield and taking several shots from close range, but none found the back of the net.
About 100 fans turned out for the game and shouts from the bleachers added energy as the Apaches surged in the final minutes.
With just 30 seconds remaining, Nogales launched a last-ditch attack, sending all their players towards the Buena goal. Even NHS goalie Abraham Gradillas rushed downfield, firing a shot with just seconds left on the clock.
But time expired with a pile of players in front of the net and without a game-tying goal for the Apaches.
“We tried our best,” Romero-Davis said, “it just wasn’t our night.”
The loss left Nogales’ record at 7-2 and 5A Conference ranking at No. 12. They were set to wrap up the regular season this week with games at Ironwood Ridge on Tuesday and at Sunnyside on Thursday.