Vikings at the head of class |

Vikings at the head of class

Steve Yingling

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Ian Chandler, background, follows Ernesto Mosqueda's header as he scores South Tahoe High's first goal against Elko in the Nevada 4A Boys' Soccer Championship game Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

RENO – They knew they had the potential to accomplish something special while conditioning at high altitude during muggy preseason workouts in August.

Carson High was the preseason favorite for the Sierra Division, but the Northern Nevada 4A schools began to recognize South Tahoe’s potential when the Vikings rolled through their league schedule unbeaten.

South Tahoe let the rest of Nevada in on its little secret over the weekend, polishing off its second state championship in three years on Saturday. The Vikings topped Elko for a second title in as many weeks, blanking the Indians 2-0 for the Nevada 4A state boys’ soccer title at Mackay Stadium.

“Nobody thought we would make it this far graduating over 20 seniors the past two years,” said STHS senior midfielder Rafael Aguirre. “All those hard practices, all those hills are worth it in the end. We made it. We’re on top.”

Senior midfielder P.J. Bacon, who scored the clinching goal late in the second half, was a reserve on the 2003 championship team. The latest title, however, will remain a little closer to his heart.

“It’s like a dream come true to be a senior and win what you wanted,” Bacon said. “I’ve been playing competitive soccer since I was 10 and it’s the ending to everything. It’s the best feeling ever.”

Recommended Stories For You

The Vikings took little time to show the Indians who was boss. Ernesto Mosqueda, the region’s top scorer, teamed up with Eric Sandoval to give STHS a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the match.

“The guys were nervous playing here and it showed, but then we settled down after that,” said STHS second-year coach Chris DeLeon.

Mosqueda set up shop at a familiar spot on the right flank of the goal post and then waited on a beautiful high-arcing corner kick from Sandoval and punched it in the back of the net with his forehead.

The quick goal sent the South Tahoe rooting section into a frenzy and Mosqueda lifted their excitement a notch by running to midfield to celebrate his goal.

“It’s always good getting a goal right away to keep our momentum going,” Aguirre said.

Elko never recovered.

The Indians, a surprise High Desert Division champion and state finalist, tried to counter STHS’s ball control offense with a quick-strike, longball attack. STHS defenders Matt Thompson, Ian Rice, Ismael Mora and Marty Harris wouldn’t permit the Indians to beat them over the top.

Nearly half of the opening 40 minutes had elapsed before Elko got off its first shot – a 35-yard blast over the crossbar by senior forward Nathan Bain.

The frustrated Indians were penalized with a pair of yellow cards 90 seconds apart late in the first half and a player or two began hanging their heads following mistakes.

Elko’s best scoring chance came in the final seconds of the first half when Nathan Leyva veered wide of the defense and launched a shot from 10 yards out. However, goalkeeper Alfredo Solorio was up to the task, going to his knees to make a near-side save.

The Indians pressed for the tying goal at the outset of the second half, outplaying the Vikings for 5 minutes. But several unsuccessful corner kicks – one of which Solorio grabbed at the apex of his leap – dimmed the Indians’ hopes.

South Tahoe eventually discarded a period of uncharacteristic long-ball passing and returned to its desired ball-control game.

“At halftime we spoke about what we wanted. It’s such a big, wide-open field and with great players, we possessed it,” DeLeon said.

Aguirre nearly took the life out of Elko, but keeper Channing Christiansen had the presence to tip a goal-oriented shot over the top of the crossbar.

Elko’s good fortune lasted briefly. In the 68th minute, Bacon beat Christiansen to the far side after getting free on a wing pass from Jamie Estrada. It was his first goal of the season.

“To score after I was out all season is the best feeling ever,” said Bacon, who was sidelined six weeks with a fractured growth plate in his hip. “It’s all I wanted was a pass from Jamie and me to score. He’s like my best friend. It’s ridiculous.”

As the minutes ticked down, Vikings’ fans began banging on their metal seats and chanting, “It’s all over. It’s all over.”

When it was, the Vikings celebrated a championship that few expected them to win back in August. Next August, the soccer schools from around the state will keep a closer eye on the Vikings.

“I think it can continue if everybody keeps the tradition and works hard,” Aguirre said.

Notes: South Tahoe finished with a 19-1-3 overall record, compared to 19-6-1 for Elko. Carson and STHS are the only teams from the North to win two state titles … Josh Boles, a junior midfielder, became the second Boles to capture a boys’ state soccer title. Older brother, Jordan, was on the 2003 champs. Younger brother, Griffen, is a seventh-grader at STMS. The venue at UNR’s Mackay Stadium was a hit with the players.

“The turf was nice and it was cool being in here with all of these fans,” Bacon said.