Golden West senior Kevin Garcia picked the perfect moment to score his first goal of the season.
Locked in a 2-2 tie with just five minutes remaining against rival El Diamante, Garcia scored to lift the Trailblazers to a 3-2 victory and to an outright West Yosemite League championship on Friday night at Groppetti Automotive Visalia Community Stadium.
"It is so exciting because it is my first goal of the season. It is our last game and it was the game-winning goal," Garcia said. "It was a corner kick and I saw the ball coming to the back. I put my head on it and it went to the back post."
It was the second straight league title for the Trailblazers, who finished the season with an 11-1 league record and went 18-3-1 overall.
El Diamante came into the game with hopes of winning at least a share of a first league championship in the program's history, if it could beat Golden West.
But the Trailblazers had different ideas. They didn't want to share the title with a crosstown rival for a second straight season. Last season, they were co-champions with Mt. Whitney.
This year, the title belongs only to Golden West.
"This is special," Golden West senior Santos Chavez said. "We deserved the title last year and had to share it, but that happens. This happened because of hard work."
The Miners finished with a 9-3 WYL record and went 15-6-2 overall. The second-place finish in league is the best the Miners have done. Coach Agustin Gonzalez said the Miners had never finished higher than fourth place.
"I'm proud of the boys because we made great improvements," El Diamante senior Cesar Flores said.
"We played as a team and gave it our all. This is our first time finishing second in the WYL. As a team we played great and we can be proud of ourselves."
The Miners gave the Trailblazers all they could handle.
Golden West started off very strong in the first half. The Trailblazers completely dominated the first 20 minutes of the game and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Brandon Cordova. He was assisted by Garcia.
The Trailblazers had a few other chances to score in the first half, but could not capitalize and went into halftime leading 1-0.
"Those first 20 minutes were as well as we have played all year long," Golden West coach John McCaw said. "That was fantastic. I thought we were creative, we ran into spaces well and we put it together."
Golden West scored just three minutes into the second half to take a 2-0 lead. Christian Ibarra scored the goal on an assist from Chavez.
The Miners were down, but they weren't out.
In the 52nd minute, Francisco Torres scored a goal to give the Miners life.
Jason Ruiz tied the game with a blast from about 35 yards out that hit the post and went into the net to tie the game at 2-2 in the 68th minute.
"It showed a lot of maturity," Gonzalez said about his team's comeback. I only have two seniors that start, and we have three sophomores and a freshman that start. To come back shows a lot of maturity."
Gonzalez was disappointed in the loss, but took solace in the fact that they pushed Golden West to the limit.
"This game had the championship on the line," he said. "I give McCaw credit. For us to hold and give them a challenge like that was good, but it is still hard to lose."
The season isn't over for the Miners, who will advance to the Central Section Division II playoffs.
It is a possibility they could run into the Trailblazers again, who are also a Division II team.
The Trailblazers would love nothing more than to make a deep run in the postseason, but they are going to take the weekend to enjoy their league title, which is something McCaw said was almost unexpected.
"These kids exceeded my expectations," he said. "We had a lot of players to replace and had to move some guys around, but everything seemed to fit nicely from Day 1."
McCaw said his team may have exceeded his expectations, and a major reason for that is how hard his team played, which is something he hopes will carry into the playoffs.
"I don't think we've every been outworked and that's a real compliment to them," McCaw said. "They work hard every game. Only once did I have to get on the about being lazy. If you play hard, what more can you ask for as a coach."