Clinging to a 1-0 lead for almost 70 minutes is not the easiest way to win a soccer game, but the Pahrump Valley High School boys soccer team did just that Wednesday at Del Sol.
Sophomore Chris Briscoe’s header off an assist from junior Abraham Alvarez during the 11th minute held up as the Trojans shut out the Dragons 1-0 in Las Vegas to clinch their second consecutive playoff berth after a decade-long drought.
“I was just coming in, what we do in practice,” Briscoe explained. “We planned it. It was going to go off of Abe’s head to mine, and that’s what happened.”
“It’s a set piece that we work on all the time,” Pahrump Valley coach Chris Roberts said. “Our main guy went in and flicked the ball. Briscoe was making a center run and flicked it right into the side of the goal. It’s good to see those things happen in a game, and it ended up being the game-winner, so that was awesome.”
The play was triggered, as so many are, by senior Koby Lindberg, who handles most of the Trojans’ throw-ins as well as goal kicks. Lindberg unleashed another strong throw-in toward the box, where Alvarez directed it toward Briscoe.
“With Koby, he’s our senior, he can throw the ball in from really far away, so we’re always on the edge of getting in the box and scoring,” Roberts said. “I’m developing a couple of other guys who can possibly throw the ball pretty close to that. We’ll see if we can keep that going.
“You put it into a dangerous area, and anything can happen.”
“Every little thing that I can do to possibly create a play out of it,” said Lindberg, who was asked if anyone would follow in his footsteps as the primary throw-in and goal-kick guy. “We have some kids that have shown some potential. Hopefully, they’ll be able to fill my shoes. But I know they’ll be able to, because this team is amazing.”
Throughout the game, neither team had a huge number of chances, but the Dragons especially seemed unable to get a foot on the ball when they were in position to tie the game.
Just six minutes after the Trojans’ goal, a Del Sol corner kick left the ball bouncing provocatively in the box. But nobody up front made a play on it, leaving Dragons defenders screaming, “Just put it away!”
Twice during the latter stages of the first half, the Dragons had a direct kick from scoring distance, but one sailed just wide and the other landed safely in the arms of Pahrump Valley keeper Ulises Salazar.
Despite some dangerous situations, Salazar only needed to make 3 saves to record the shutout, the sixth shutout of the season for Pahrump Valley (11-6, 8-6 Sunset).
The Trojans didn’t put too many shots on the Del Sol net, either, but theirs were the more dangerous chances.
“Their keeper was phenomenal,” Roberts said. “He made a couple of really good saves. Realistically it could have been 3-0, and that goalkeeper kept them in it. My hat’s off to him.”
“We had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t capitalize,” Alvarez said. “We knew second half they were going to come out stronger.”
Unable to score during the first 40 minutes, the Dragons indeed stepped up the pressure after halftime. Roberts said it only looked as if the Trojans went into a defensive shell.
“It kind of just worked out that way,” Roberts said. “They were pressing a little bit harder, but I made sure we had a little more on the outside to cover. They play a lot of short-short-long, so I made sure my outside fulls were playing a little farther back, so they were prepared for it, and my deep sweep was prepared for it as well. I knew their game plan, and we just went through and got it done.
“We had a couple of times where they got close. I was nervous just because the time takes way too long.”
The second half did seem to stall, partly because players kept going down for a short time. Most notably, sophomore Christian Mott, Pahrump Valley’s second leading scorer behind Alvarez, was taken down hard with just a couple of minutes left in the game. Mott went down hard on a potential breakaway a few minutes earlier, and this time tempers flared, and the teams engaged in a brief shoving match before order was restored.
“It was physical, but I was expecting that,” Roberts said. “We were in the exact same situation last year, and the exact same thing happened. The boys were prepared for it. It was physical on both sides, and it made for a good, exciting game.”
There was little time left on the referee’s clock by the time Mott went down, and the Trojans, who were on the defensive much of the second half, did a good job of mounting enough of an attack to take precious time off of the clock during the closing minutes.
Twice over the final 5 minutes, Briscoe created corner kicks by maneuvering defenders into sending the ball over the end line, and sophomore Christopher Vega was in no hurry to set up those kicks.
When the final whistle sounded, several Dragons slumped to the ground, finding being knocked out of the playoffs on the final day of the regular season for the second consecutive year too much to handle.
Both Alvarez and Briscoe said they knew they would live to play another day.
“For me, it did go as planned,” Alvarez said. “Coming into the game, I had the mindset that we were going to win, and that’s just what happened.”
And Roberts said his junior forward was a key reason why it went as planned.
“Abraham Alvarez had a really good game,” the coach said. “Briscoe had a pretty good defensive game, and so did Vinny DiBlasi. My center three played pretty strong on the ball, and they were hustling a lot.”
And the Trojans hustled their way to the No. 3 seed in the Sunset. They tied Valley for that spot but won the tiebreaker because of their two wins over the Vikings. Being No. 3 allows the Trojans to avoid Sunrise Mountain, the top seed out of the Sunrise and the team that eliminated them from the region tournament last season in a 7-1 drubbing.
Instead, Pahrump Valley will meet Chaparral at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex adjacent to Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas. Chaparral’s loss Thursday to Sunrise Mountain left the Cowboys as the No. 2 seed in the Sunrise at 10-2, with the Miners finishing league play 12-0.
Chaparral is 14-6-3 overall. Before Thursday’s loss to the Miners, the Cowboys had won nine of 10 games since a 1-0 loss to Bishop Gorman. The other losses have come to Class 4A schools Foothill (3-2), Tech (2-0), Las Vegas (3-0) and Durango (3-1). Gorman and Las Vegas are in first place in their leagues, while Tech is 15-3. The Cowboys’ ties have been against Equipo Academy, Las Vegas and Silverado, all in August.
The winner of the Pahrump Valley-Chaparral game most likely would face Sunset League champion Western at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7.