When Lowell and San Francisco International High School met back on Sept. 24, the Cardinals blanked the Huskies 6-0 and were on their way to blanking the Huskies a second time Tuesday.
Leading 2-0 65 minutes into the game, Lowell found itself on the verge of a fifth straight trip to the Academic Athletic Association championship.
SFI, which is in its third season of existence, showed no signs of derailing the Cardinals as their shots were off target.
However with 15 minutes left in the game, SFI did the unthinkable, and pulled off a miracle the school will never forget.
The fourth-seeded Huskies scored three goals in the final 15 minutes. Junior Kerlin Bueso’s go-ahead header in the 79th minute sent SFI to its first AAA boys’ soccer championship with a 3-2 upset victory over top-seeded Lowell at Boxer Stadium.
“We had a lot of faith that the team could [come back],” said SFI coach Angel Rodriguez through a translator. “We just remained confident and kept believing we could come back and win.”
SFI (18-3-3) took advantage of Lowell’s strategy to drop one of its midfielders to prevent any breakaways in the 66th minute with a goal from sophomore Ervin Caracun.
Still, Lowell seemed to be in great shape. But in the 73rd minute, freshman Cristian Sevilla tied the game with a memorable goal.
With a free kick from the left sideline just outside the Lowell penalty box, Sevilla’s fired a high-arching kick that Lowell goalie Aiden Powers-Riggs lost in the sun, enabling the ball to drop into net.
The sun also seemed to factor on Bueso’s game-winning goal. “That’s exactly what my understanding was that the sun played a factor in my goalie’s viewpoint,” said first-year Lowell coach Juan Lopez. “The [sun] definitely got in the way on those last two goals for us. It’s just unlucky for us.”
After SFI controlled most of the first 20 minutes of action, Lowell forced a turnover and Antonio Torres did the rest, scoring from 10 yards out to put the Cardinals ahead 1-0 with 18 minutes left in the first half. Torres dropped in his second goal of the match in the 39th minute.
Lowell (15-4-1) will have to wait another season to capture the school’s ninth boys’ soccer championship.
“I was just telling my guys that you have to finish and that this game is 80-plus minutes of soccer, and you can’t let your guard down with a team that’s hungry to get back in it,” Lopez said. “This is a life lesson learned. We were up 2-0 and we got overconfident and start thinking about the championship. You just don’t get complacent and you have to finish.”
SFI will take on the winner of today’s Galileo-Lincoln semifinal game for the AAA championship on Saturday.
“We’re excited and we feel awesome,” Rodriguez said. “This is the biggest win in the school’s history.”