The Denair High varsity boys soccer team may be new to the playoff scene, but they didn’t look like it Tuesday night as they emerged victorious from a shootout to head to the Sac Joaquin Section Division VI championship game.
For the first time since the program’s inception in 2001, the Coyotes are in the playoff tournament and continue to make the most of the moment with a stunning 5-3 shootout defeat of Summerville High in the semifinal game. Following a hard-fought effort during regulation which ended in a 1-1 tie, the Coyotes and Bears went to double overtime before duking it out in a penalty kick shootout.
“They’re resilient,” Denair head coach Miguel Hernandez said of Denair’s PK win. “...I just told them to hold on. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to score during the game, but I knew if we could get to PKs we would have a better opportunity to win. We achieved that.”
The Coyotes did score during the game — and early — with sophomore Justin Hernandez scoring the contest’s first goal in the fifth minute. Denair’s offense went cold from then on, but the defense stepped up big once again to hold Summerville to just one goal of their own which came in the second half.
“At that moment, all I saw was a wide open net. I cleared my mind and didn’t care about the crowd or anything — I was just focused on making that one goal,” Justin Hernandez said of his early score.
He wasn’t done yet. Regulation ended with the two teams tied at one apiece, and two 10-minute overtime periods ended without a goal. From there the match went into PKs, which saw a back-and-forth of seven made goals between the teams before Summerville missed their fourth shot.
With a chance to win the game and send Denair to the section title game, Justin Hernandez stepped up to take his shot.
“I always think ahead when I’m waiting on the line, and I was telling my teammates, ‘I’m going on the left, top left,’” Justin Hernandez said. “I came up to the moment, started to look at the right side to trick the goalie and then went top left.”
His shot soared into the top left corner of the goal and the Coyotes went crazy, having just sealed a trip to the section championship. Justin Hernandez said he felt pure joy as he watched the ball hit the back of the net.
“It was very nerve-wracking, especially since this is our first time in playoffs and we’re such a small school,” he said. “But you have to go in there with confidence and be a leader for your team.”
Miguel Hernandez once again credited the Coyote defense for holding Summerville to just one goal, and the effort also included a triumphant night for goalie Sergio Torres who had multiple saves. Denair hopes to continue their solid streak into the title game, which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.